Monday, January 10, 2005

Tsunami burn-out

Frederica on the problem with the tsunami reporting and disaster reporting in general.
The numbers seemed not just unreal, but random. Why not 500,000, or only 50? How big would the number have to be before I could register it? And, even if I did, what difference would it make.

I agree completely. When I wrote this entry about being overwhelmed with the magnitude of the disaster and my relative inability to do anything worthwhile, the death toll was only 11,000. That's not to say that we should ignore the plight of those affected, but which one of us has a context to understand what it means for0 140,000 people to die from one disaster? The news media consider themselves the all-seeing, non-emotional eye, but they don't stop to consider the impact of bringing up-to-the-minute technicolor carnage and death into my living room and then cutting to a commercial for softer bathroom tissue.

This isn't a rant against them though. I don't know what the perfect answer is. I would be heartily grateful for an attitude amongst journalists that acknowledged that there are life and death questions that we can't know, even if we know the precise death toll. And for those who survive the unthinkable, there is a life that goes on after the camera stops rolling ... and until these things happen to us, there is part of the story that none of us quite has words to tell.

But I don't imagine that seismic point-of-view shift will come any time soon. Just something to shoot for.


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