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Human Tragedy or Pop Star Circus? Cable News Makes the Call

After spending all day covering the earthquake for TCP and trying to dig up news and updates, I have to say I am really, really disappointed in the network coverage US) of this tragedy. 11,000 people dead in one day and they give the same, if not more, coverage to the Michael Jackson trial. Is it because the dead aren't Americans? Or is it because the networks think no one will care? Or do they just really believe that we are all more interested in who was hot or not in 2004 than 11,000 fellow humans dying in one day?

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» 24 Hours Later The News is Slowing Down from David Earney | dave's not here
The bad news from the Earthquake/Tsunami event in Southeast Asia has been mounting for the last 24 hours. Current death tolls are between 11,000 and 13,000 [Read More]

» Asia blasted by Tsunami from Rooftop Report
The biggest earthquake in four decades. The death toll doubling every six hours. Deaths experienced over 3,000 miles from the epicenter. Absolutely heartbreaking. The coverage: QandO has a thorough breakdown, including an animation that demonstrates th... [Read More]

» Asia blasted by Tsunami from Rooftop Report
The biggest earthquake in four decades. The death toll doubling every six hours. Deaths experienced over 3,000 miles from the epicenter. Absolutely heartbreaking. The coverage: QandO has a thorough breakdown, including an animation that demonstrates th... [Read More]

» My god... from Maladjusted - Fair and Balanced
I feel like a dolt when things like this are going on and I don't even realize it. 23,000 dead in Asian quake It's always a good thing to remember your fellow man at this time of year. And sadly, too often, Americans are too preoccupied with th... [Read More]

» God didn't do it (and nature sometimes sucks) . . . from Classical Values
. . . it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own . . . -- James Wolcott 24,000 dead and counting is pretty damned horrible... [Read More]

Comments

I thought the same thing. Sick, no?

I was amazed to see nonstop football on a day when over 10,000 people died.

Liberals run the networks. I thought they cared just as much about "little brown people" as they do about regular old Americans. Perhaps that is not the case.

2 reasons for this.

1. No video coverage. That should start to come in Monday (Probably available now, but ... see reason 2)

2. The last low-ranking schmuck at a network who cut regular programming to bring you breaking news, had his hat handed to him. No low-ranking schmuck is going to take that chance, and all the high mucky-mucks are not working today. (They are on "holiday" break after all.)

It's a natural disaster. A big one, with a terrible toll, but these things happen and there's nothing anyone can do about it. The fact that it struck on the other side of the world doesn't help matters.

Let us pause to note that if they were doing wall-to-wall quake coverage, they'd be accused of ghoulishness. 11,000 DEAD! BEACHES LITTERED WITH CORPSES! 200 BOATS SWALLOWED UP BY THE SEA!

I was very dissapointed with the coverage as well. While I sympathize with Allahpundit's point, I think the networks still could have done better. I was amazed at the lack of coverage.

What if this had happened in America?

Hopefully at least Fox will redeem themselves by publicizing how we can help with relief efforts.

The pattern of the waves is odd and seem to be focused to the north and west of the epicentre, it hit East Africa and caused fatalities, but seems to have missed most landfall areas south of the epicentre- aside from west Sumatra. I've not heard any reports of waves hitting Java or North West Australia- which is much closer to the quake than East Africa is and the waves would theoretically have a unobstructed run to Australia in a southerly direction.

News coming from the North West seems somewhat contradictory. No waves were reported in the Pilbara area but the West Australian reported in its morning edition that there was a large tidal surge in the Kalbarri-Geraldton area and some boats may have been sunk. One witness in Kalbarri claimed the normally dry river estuary filled with sea water.

There are also some vague and unsubstantatied rumours about people being stranded by large tides on Penguin Island south of Perth- which is only 20 miles or so from where I live. I think all our journalists are away for Christmas, hence the poor reportage.

Sadly, 11,000 people dying on the other side of the world doesn't rank for news coverage here. Michael Jackson, Peterson, the woman who ripped the baby out of the other woman, those kinds of things will get coverage here. If 11,000 people died in the U.S., coverage would be much, much more extensive, beginning with the minute it happened.

The other really eerie thing about it is when you think that there have been times when over 100,000 have died in natural disasters in Bangladesh, for instance. 655,000 died in an earthquake in China in 1976. that's more people than the town I grew up in!

There was coverage earlier today on CNN, FOXNews, and some of the other cable news channels. But these stations are commercial outlets; they'll put on whatever they think sells. In the past Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson have been shown to be steady sellers, whereas dead foreigners on the other side of the world have a short shelf-life interest-wise. (I expect any minute to read an article blaming the lack of coverage of this disaster on Florida-hurricane-coverage-burnout.) The real solution, perhaps, is to round up everyone who has a shrine to MJ in their home and a steady history of correspondence with the Nielsen ratings company and shoot them, but we all know that's not going to happen.

I think the MSM has already proven betond a doubt that if it can't be pinned on GW and his team,it has no value to their programming.I am not amazed at their coverage,I expected it .

Yes, one reason for no coverage is that there are very few dead Americans announced AT THIS TIME. But, look for more announcements from Phuket.

Also, because of the holidays, TV news, even in non-Christian countries is on stand-down.

TV is a visual medium and if there are no pics, there's no story. But, the sun is now rising in the most devasted places and they'll have film. Soon enough, you won't be able to get away from it.

If 11,000 people died in the U.S., coverage would be much, much more extensive, beginning with the minute it happened.

Yes, as it should be. Why shouldn't American news networks devote more coverage to disasters that directly affect their own viewers?

My question for all the people who are tsk-tsking the networks here is this: what exactly are you hoping to see from them? Once the quake hit, there were only three places for the story to go. 1) The perfunctory messages of condolence from world leaders; 2) the requests for medical and economic aid; 3) the death toll watch. None of that requires extensive coverage. To ask for it anyway is to treat airtime as a barometer of sympathy -- i.e., "if CNN doesn't run eight hours of quake news today then We as a People are Insufficiently Bereaved."

I'm sure there'll be a lot more video available tomorrow and we'll all be treated to the money shots we're craving. Every hour on the hour we'll be reminded how terrible it all is. And then, after about a day of it, we'll be completely desensitized and start bitching about how the media loves to wallow in people's misery. Blar.

NPR (with the help of BBC) is all over it, with this story, this one, and this one. And nothing about Michael Jackson in our coverage.

The problem is that news on television is seen mostly as entertainment.

And on the day after Christmas the media doesn't want to let anyone know that 11000 people died when instead they could inform us about a grown man buggering little boys.

I can't recall lots of Taiwanese coverage of Flordia's hurricanes...unless there were spectacular shots.

There was a huge contrast between the amount of coverage on Sky News and the BBC News and what I saw on Fox News (the only 24-hour US news channel we get in Israel.)

The British channels had far more coverage. Also, as I've posted on my blog, there is huge coverage of it in Israel. Big difference is that Europeans and Israelis are much more likely to have travelled to these countries, and nearly everyone knows someone who is there right now -- backpacking in the Far East is such a rite of passage for people in their late teens and early 20's. The travel agencies and government here say they haven't recieved so many panicked calls from worried relatives since Sept. 11.

Allah has a point.

I watched very little news over the weekend - very little tv at all, actually. When I did turn on Fox, the only story I saw was about the earthquake/tsunami. So, from the perspective of a NON-news watcher for this brief period of time, the only story I caught was this one. They must have been pushing it somewhat.

I live on the coast in Florida, and I don't see that comparison as being apt. While there was some tragic loss of life, most of the loss related to property. This disaster is of another kind entirely. Chauvinist that I am, I understand why American media concentrates on American stories, but this wouldn't be like covering a story on the Japanese unemployement rate.

I'm moreas cynical as the next person, but it would take a whole lot of coverage to desensitize me to this.

I won't blogwhore here, but the thing that really got me was CNN's story on the celebrity interior designer/Oprah regular. I think they could do a bit better.

Obviously, you guys have not been watching CNN since 10 pm est on Sunday. They have devoted every minute of their time toward the earthquake/tsunami disaster in South East Asia. Their correspondents have been on this story all day and night, giving by far the most comprehensive coverage here in the US on this story. Not only that, but they have people who know what they are talking about. Their experts and anchors seem to have done a very good job covering this story from all angles. All of their correspondents in the region have given the viewers a much larger understanding of this horrific tragedy.

I was watching football all day and didn't even know about it until I saw it in this mornings paper! (no internet on vacation) However, I was well aware that Reggie White died and that Saban accepted the offer to coach the Dolphins. CBS didn't even show a trailer at the bottom of the screen - disgraceful!

There will be more coverage when they start complaining about why the US and/or Americans aren't doing enough.

Apart from saying "they deserved it for voting for Bush (in 2000)/not ratifying Kyoto", what did not-Americans do when Florida was hit by hurricanes?

Yes, we should help. And we will, a lot more than folks who've been bleating about the horror.

As long as our biggest sin is not interrupting our entertainment and the rest of the world isn't close....

Has anyone pointed out that what you're saying is factually false?

As I write this, I can hear from the living room TV that CNN Headline News is doing a report on "the politics of disaster relief" with specific referenence to the tsunami. The only other story I tell that is getting any significant coverage is the bin Laden audiotape. I don't know what news the rest of your are watching but the CNN/FOX/MSNBC cable troika is covering it as THE story.

The closer to home, the more you care. It's just in the nature of people. I'm sorry to report that we are all human and we can not be equally concerned with every loss of life anywhere on Earth. When hurricanes hit Florida, I guess we all (or at least most of us) knew someone who could be affected. In this case, most of us do not. Thus difference in attitude and coverage.

Sean, this post was written yesterday. When I wrote it, it was true.

I'm sorry to report that we are all human and we can not be equally concerned with every loss of life anywhere on Earth.

Hey, I really do agree with the concept. But I, my immediate family, and most of my friends live on the coasts of Florida, yet I find this occurrence much more disturbing than hurricane season was. And I have no special gift of empathy. The two occurrences don't even come close to each other; they ain't in the same city, forget ballpark.

Sean, allow me to introduce you to linear time. She's a fast-moving bitch, eh?

I'm sorry to report that we are all human and we can not be equally concerned with every loss of life anywhere on Earth

How wrong you are. I know lots of people who were in tears when Sept 11 happened and these people were not from the US. These were people who (like most non-Americans) think that George Bush is a very evil man and can not understand how every middle America town can't see that and voted him back in. They dislike the American government very much and understand why some fundamentalists believed that that attack was the only thing that they could do to make a point to the country who consistently attack the rest of the world and yet (through Fox et al) keep it secret from most of America. They do NOT, however, hate American people and understand that despite some idiotic views held by certain American people and certain American politicians, a lot of Americans are good people, naive and ill-educated maybe but decent human beings. These are the reasons why the majority of the world wept for American citizens on that horrible day. When I see that someone say that caring for people is all about geography and that it is human nature for people to care about people nearby more than others, it makes me think that America is full of incredibly selfish people (something which I know from various visits is not true) - what happened in Asia was truly a world disaster and the fact that American media found Michael Jackson more newsworthy is simply another example of how the American media is just a front for the George Bush campaign ie nobody matters except the US, attack is the best form of defence, only the US should be allowed nuclear weapons, oil is more valuable than (foreign) lives. It is shocking. It is wrong and a lot of the world is terrified of the new Hitler. A lot of my American friends believe that the media in the US simply drip feed misinformation to the country and that is why middle America actually voted in a racist, violent warmonger into power. My friend Ben from Maine describes living in America as 'living in a bubble' and it was only when he travelled when he realised what his own president was doing.

> These were people who (like most non-Americans)
> think that George Bush is a very evil man...

Aside from the fact that your "most" assertion is an unproven premise, I must add that "think" is NOT what these people are doing. What they are doing is allowing professional information massagers (be they MSM in western counties, or madrasses in Islamic ones) to do thier "thinking" for them.

>The pattern of the waves is odd and seem to be
>focused to the north and west of the epicentre

The land displaced during the earthquake was a roughly north/south section about thirty miles wide and a hundred miles long. Thus, a big "hot-dog"- shaped mass of ocean over over it was also perturbed, with larger waves propogating from the longer axis (to east and west). Australia and Bangladesh (to north and south) received much smaller waves.