Is it just me, or are natural disasters seeming to dominate the current news? From Japan’s very severe earthquake to New York’s hurricane Irene, to the forest fires in Texas, to hurricane Katia in Britain, and the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit Vancouver Island. What is going on?
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My curiosity got the better of me when I remembered a theory I had heard about how natural disasters were more prevalent now because of media coverage. Now I am not denying that these natural disasters ever existed, but you have to agree that the media does play a part in all of this. As the world is becoming smaller, we are now more aware than ever about what is going on abroad. The widespread popularity of social media is now making the flow of information faster and faster as now even the news broadcasts rely on it (Foutry: (c)2010). When I typed in “natural disasters and the media”, I got various articles and not-so-free essays about media coverage on natural disasters. One article that really stuck out was by Patrick Cockburn. The title itself got my attention: “Catastrophe on camera, why media coverage of natural disasters is flawed”. He suggests that media can tend to exaggerate the extent of the damage caused which is problematic seeing that the news is taken at face value. Take, for example, the precautionary measures taken by the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (ie closing subways and evacuations). I found a video of some New Yorkers stating that it was just a big unnecessary media hype. Click here to view the video I am referring to. Mr. Cockburn states that politics come into play as an unresponsive government will be criticized and therefore not be re-elected. [NOTE: On the other hand, media coverage is necessary as it raises awareness of what is going on around the world. This awareness will lead to action from other countries who generally provide financial support and humanitarian aid. Guillaume Foutry explores how social media affects the spread of aid through global awareness in his article “Social Media and Natural Disasters”. He shines a light on the positive aspect of the media and social media as he states this rapid spread of information facilitates the spread of humanitarian aid to those affected. So let’s not start bashing the media just quite yet.]
We can also point fingers to global warming as the earth’s temperature is slowly rising. As the article on the National Geographic website states, one of the effects of global warming is that “hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger” and “floods and droughts will become more common…”.
So what is going on? Is it the media’s doing? Is it the fact that there is more coverage on global events and that they tend to exaggerate the severity of these disasters? Or is the weather becoming more and more tumultuous and violent? What do you think?
BBC.co.uk: “Britain Braced for Severe Gales on Sunday” (c) 2011 .
Cockburn, P. “Catastrophe on camera: Why media coverage of natural disasters is flawed” (c) 2011 .
BBS.co.uk. “Magnitude – 6.4 magnitude quake hits off Vancouver Island”. (c) 2011.
Foutry, G. “Social Media and Natural Disasters”. (c) 2010
Huff Post New York: “NYC Hurricane Flooding in New York after Irene” (c) 2011
Unknown Author. National Geographic Website. “Effects of Global Warming: Signs are everywhere” (c) 2007 .
Wells, M. Video coverage. (c) 2011