September 2005 (v8 i1)
Having Fleeting Delusions of Grandeur Since 1997
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How will Katrina affect the Holloway investigation?
by Ryan B. Martinez, Associate Editor

“When I saw the hurricane, my first instinct
was, ‘Buy gas futures!’”
ARUBA — As mere thousands on the Gulf Coast deal with the aftermath of a fairly large storm, one mother in Aruba is still trying to find the answer to a question that resonates more directly, more poignantly, with millions more: What happened to Na­talee Holloway?

"Just because I've hit a dead end in Aruba, doesn't mean the search is off," said Beth Twitty, mother of the 18-year-old tourist from Alabama who disappeared while on the island in May. The case halted when three main suspects were released in early Sep­tember.

More recently, the New Orleans weather incident has further stalled the investigation into the calamity that ripped sweet Natalee - sweet, fair-haired Natalee, whose favorite candy was Reese's Pieces - from the arms of a doting mother and country.

"Natalee's mother has shrewdly used the media to propel the investigation," said FOX News anchor Greta Van Susteren, who bravely led coverage of Holloway's vanishing. "But with the hurricane now hogging the spotlight, she can no longer influence officials like she used to. If anything, that is the real tragedy of Katrina."

Since it hit, the hurricane has comprised 80 percent of airtime on elite-media, 24-hour news channels, even garnering attention in more fair and balanced outlets.

"It's heinous," said James Sims, FOX crime correspondent. "Everyone was up in arms about FEMA's slow reaction to Katrina. But where was FEMA when Natalee disappeared? What did FEMA do when Joran van der Sloot, the Dutchman who I've already decided killed Natalee, went free? Why hasn't anyone said anything about that?"

When informed by elite-media rep­resentatives that FEMA doesn't handle overseas missing persons cases, Sims responded: "Regardless."

The Holloway case has fallen victim to what media analysts call a "social responsibility bias," in which less important stories that have way too many characters in them get more press coverage than relevant stories with fewer than five, easy-to-remember main characters.

Experts also say the omnipresent hurricane coverage, with its personal accounts of death, lost loved ones and governmental failure, is a cynical foray into sensationalism that distracts viewers from larger, more impacting issues.

"We in the field like to pat ourselves on the back about our role in a democracy," said Van Susteren. "But at this crucial time in history, we have to ask ourselves: Is the role of the media to inform the public about Natalee Holloway or merely to evoke emotion over Hurricane Katrina? I trust the American public to make the right viewing decision."

The hurricane, which hit the Gulf Coast but affected weather systems throughout the At­lantic, might also complicate the recovery of physical evidence in Aruba.

"In April, some bones washed ashore, and blonde hairs were found in a nearby park," said Aruba Po­lice Chief Jan van Stratten. "OK, so the bones ended up belonging to a donkey and tests proved the hair wasn't Natalee's. None­theless, this stu­pid storm might hinder our abil­ity to not per­form a fruitful investigation."

Some meteorol­ogists suggested unusual weather conditions could actually de­posit evidence onto Aruban shores. If this were to happen, it would speed up the investigation and any ensuing court case, ultimately ending the ordeal all the sooner.

"That's horrible," said Van Susteren at the suggestion. "Why would you even say some­thing like that to me?"

In the meantime, FOX News will continue to trace the connections between our nation's two current tragedies. Gloria Riviera, a New Orleans correspondent, has seen the heart­breaking evidence up close.

"I talked to evacuees who had been stuck in their attics," she said. "They spent days stewing in dirty water, urine and feces, watching their grandparents die in front of them, feeling star­vation and hopelessness gnaw away at them. When I heard their stories, I wept." She added: "I mean, those poor people. For more than a week, they had no way of getting updates on the Natalee Holloway story."
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