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The Media and Natural Disasters

January 22, 2010

With the quake in Haiti still fresh, the prime source of news and updates are coming from media outlets and people on the ground with access to communications.

Having such a narrow pool of options to get information from (not to mention little word from the Haitian government), there are three things the media seems to be focused on:

1.) Haiti as a country before the earthquake.

2.) The Haitian people before and after the earthquake.

3.) Medical and social attention needed in Haiti, both in relation to earthquake injuries and existing ones (reports of people needing medical attention for diseases and medial problems they already have).

Simply put, there is little about the earthquake itself but more so on the state and condition of Haiti as a whole. Being familiar with the troubles of Haiti and the Haitian government, it would actually be easy to think some of the issues going on are new. This isn’t to downplay what the country needs right now, but the tragedy that is how without a disaster the three points above would still be an issue. I found an article about how the media covers natural disasters. Nothing about it is too surprising, but does point (especially in terms of broadcast media) to the newsworthiness of the issues of people themselves. This is a good thing, of course, but again leaves the question of how those three points above could be dealt with without a disaster.

Overall it points to the media as being an important voice when a natural disaster occurs (an obvious point, they provide information). What about, however, when the attention surrounding a disaster wanes? The six month and year updates of the earthquake’s aftermath will be interesting indeed. It’s impossible to fully write about the media and how it deals with natural disasters without time itself really. Having control over even the slightest bit of information isn’t necessarily a good thing 100 percent of the time, so it will be interesting seeing what will become of this latest disaster in six months and, later, a year out.

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