Summary: A wildfire burning near the southern California town of Montecito destroyed houses, forced the evacuation of more than 5,000 residents and threatened the homes of celebrities in November 2008. This story as reported in the New York Times is typical of a daily news story about wildfire—much about damage and evacuations, a little bit about short-term causes, but not much about long-term fire issues and prevention.
Topic: Wildfire Policy [link this to statement of question on blog]
Category: Mainstream Journalistic
What is it? News report from the web version of the New York Times
Publication Information: New York Times, Nov. 14 2008
Author: Robbins, Liz; Archibold, Randal C.
Accessed: Nov. 14, 2008
Ron Prince, Santa Barbara fire chief
Kevin Wallace, Montecito Fire District chief
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jackie Jenkins, spokeswoman for the Montecito Fire Protection District
Tyler Rollema, a sophomore at Westmont College
Janet O’Neil, spokeswoman for Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital
These sources represent the official information from the fire departments charged with fighting the blaze, the State of California’s response to the fire, news reports describing the evacuation, a spokeswoman from the fire district where a number of celebrity homes are threatened, a college student who was evacuated during the fire, and a spokeswoman from the hospital commenting on injuries.
Audience and Agenda:
The New York Times claims more than 14 million online readers. Although it started as a newspaper for residents of New York City in the 1800s, it has grown to be a newspaper of record for the nation, and its influence has been the subject of a number of histories, including Gay Talese’s The Kingdom and the Power from 1969. It is also generally considered to be a liberal leaning news source, which its public editor argued is as much a reflection of its audience as it is an attempt to persuade its audience to a particular point of view.
This report told about the extent of the fire and the significance to the local community, but what promoted it to national attention was the threat to celebrity homes and that it was moving unusually fast and forcing the evacuation of thousands. The college student appears in this as a person affected by the fire. The story is one of many similar kinds of stories that the New York Times and other national and regional newspapers wrote about fire [Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal], which follow a similar formula of number of acres burning, percent containment and injury and damage assessment. It is reported as a force of nature that humans are fighting to contain, but speaks little about other issues critical in fire-prone areas, namely prevention measures like defensible space and zoning.
NY Times media kit: http://www.nytimes.whsites.net/mediakit/online/audience/audience_profile.php
Okrent, Daniel. “Is the New York Times a liberal newspaper?” The New York Times. July 25, 2004. Accessed Dec. 23, 2008.
Talese, Gay. The Kingdom and the Power. New York: World, 1969.