Tune-out factor

Maybe it’s because we live in an age of acceleration where news and information seem to be speeding at us constantly at faster and faster speeds. Or maybe it’s because we really are losing our attention span as a nation.

It’s just that sometimes all we seem capable of is log in, log off; tune in, tune out.

When disaster hits, as when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans late last summer, we tuned in with a vengeance. Most of us spent an entire week watching the hypnotic footage of the flood devastation and its awful aftermath.

But when media coverage diminished, and things hit a kind of resolution, those of us who were not directly affected did what comes naturally.

We tuned out.

Soon we forgot how we’d felt watching as New Orleanians bashed through attics with axes to escape the water’s climb; as thousands of mostly poor, black citizens gathered at the Superdome and the convention center, waiting day after day for relief from a government that seemed to have utterly abandoned them.

Today, despite occasional media attention on the effort to rebuild New Orleans, most of us think of Katrina and the flood as something that happened a long time ago in a place far, far away.

But it’s not that far. This week, SN&R contributor Noel Neuburger, a local photographer who was born and raised in New Orleans, returns with us to the city of his birth and reminds us of the lessons we must never forget, the city we must never overlook. Neuburger’s moving journey through the places of his past is presented in “Return to New Orleans.”

As you tune in to what Neuburger discovered in his travels, remember: The short-attention-span scenario—where calamity hits and then is largely forgotten—could happen to any of us. After all, as UC Davis’ Jeffrey Mount said in a recent New York Times interview, Sacramento could be the next New Orleans.

It’d be best not to tune that out.