A much bigger problem, in terms of geographic focus, was that the media spent too much time focused on big East Coast cities rather than the more rural areas, which ultimately fared worse. As Media Bistro’s TV Newser pointed out, “once it became clear that Irene would not be bringing the devastation to New York City … the cable news channels returned to regular programming.”

Yes, coverage of the hurricane could have been better—but coverage of every story could always be better. TV news is what it is; our nonstop news cycle means that whenever there is a slow-moving, breaking news story, television is going to exploit it, often in ways that are inefficient, as Jarvis suggested, and sometimes kind of silly. Yet given what the experts were saying early on about Irene, the talk about too much hype seems like, well, hype. If Irene had behaved a bit differently—by maintaining its Category 1 strength right up to the shores of Long Island for instance—the critics would be having a very different conversation right now.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.