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Correction to This Article
This column gave incorrect figures for growth in traffic on the Tennessean newspaper's Web site after the Nashville floods. The Tennessean initially said it recorded 44,000 page views in the first 12 days of May, compared with a monthly average of 20,000 page views. Actually, it recorded 44 million page views in the first 12 days of May, compared with a monthly average of 20 million page views.
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Howard Kurtz explores how oil spill, bombing news trumped Nashville flood

A destructive line of weekend storms killed 28 people in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, and muddy floodwaters have reached parts of the historic heart of Nashville.

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"Nuances are lost when you do fly-in, fly-out reporting," Silverman says of the coverage. In journalism, he says, "everyone wants to have a villain. But there are no villains yet, except for Mother Nature." There was, however, intense hunger for information: Traffic at the Tennessean's Web site, which averages 20,000 page views a month, soared to 44,000 page views in the first 12 days of May.

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Newsweek's Andrew Romano writes that the problem with the Nashville story was "the 'narrative' simply wasn't as strong" as in the suspense-laden Times Square and BP dramas. "Because it continually needs to fill the airwaves and the Internet with new content, 1,440 minutes a day, the media can only trade on a story's novelty for a few hours, tops. It is new angles, new characters, and new chapters that keep a story alive for longer."

One such "angle" was the significant damage to the country music industry. Nashville-based singers such as Keith Urban helped generate some publicity, especially in entertainment outlets, and Taylor Swift announced she was donating $500,000 during a telethon on WSMV.

There's little question that the other two mega-stories had far greater national implications. The Times Square plot exposed gaps in the country's terrorism defenses, and administration officials have linked the unsuccessful attack to the Pakistani Taliban. The BP debacle threatens the coastline of several states and has reshaped the debate over the safety of offshore drilling.

In Nashville, though, a storied American city suffered a devastating blow and many lives were lost. It's too bad the news business seems able to juggle only one or two crises at a time.

Oily effort

After a contentious but fair interview with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu over the BP oil spill, MSNBC's Ed Schultz delivered a late hit after she left. "We should point out that Senator Landrieu has taken $1.8 million from BP over the last 10 years," he said as "The Ed Show" put up a graphic. "You just can't look at this number and say that people aren't affected by that."

But the figure he touted last Tuesday was wrong. Schultz offered an apology the next night, telling viewers that Landrieu had actually received $752,000 from BP during her political career.

Bzzzt! Wrong again. The actual figure is $28,000. The Democrat has gotten $752,000 from the entire oil and gas industry.

"It is unfortunate that in the rush to portray Senator Landrieu as a 'shill' for BP, such an egregious error was made, especially at a time when Senator Landrieu was unable to defend herself on air," says Landrieu spokesman Robert Sawicki. "The right thing to do would have been to correct the record with numbers that truly show how far off his claim really was."

Sawicki says the network didn't respond to his follow-up complaint, but "The Ed Show" corrected the mistake Friday after I called MSNBC. Spokesman Jeremy Gaines says the initial number came from a CNN.com post, which itself was quickly corrected, and the second wrong figure was from a watchdog group. He says the "initial plan" was for Schultz to ask Landrieu about the donations during the interview.

Media morsels

-- Nearly five months after taking over ABC's "World News," Diane Sawyer had her strongest second-place finish in the ratings, averaging 7 million viewers. She trailed longtime leader Brian Williams and "NBC Nightly News" by 430,000 viewers, while Katie Couric and "CBS Evening News" dipped to 4.98 million.

-- Morning anchors are supposed to share their personal travails, but lately it's been getting rather up close and personal. First CBS's Harry Smith, following the path blazed by Couric, had a colonoscopy on "The Early Show," and last week ABC's Sam Champion had a skin cancer removed on "Good Morning America."

-- Elizabeth Hasselbeck has apologized for a dumb remark about ESPN's Erin Andrews, who had the horrible experience of a stalker shooting photos of her naked though a hotel peephole. Hasselbeck had said on "The View" that the peeper just should have waited to see her scantily clad on "Dancing With the Stars." Now federal prosecutors have recommended that the man convicted in the case, Michael David Barrett, pay $327,000 in restitution to ESPN.

-- If you're thinking of buying Rush Limbaugh's Fifth Avenue penthouse -- he is making good on his promise to leave high-tax New York -- he's dropped the price from $13.95 million to $12.95 million.

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."


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