Covering catastrophe across the globe

by Beacon Staff • November 2, 2005

Our view: News should not revolve primarily around celebrities and athletes.

On Oct. 8 an earthquake shook Pakistani and Indian Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province in northern Pakistan. The massive quake, a 7.,"At issue: Media coverage in the United States.

Our view: News should not revolve primarily around celebrities and athletes.

On Oct. 8 an earthquake shook Pakistani and Indian Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province in northern Pakistan. The massive quake, a 7.6 on the Richter Scale, was the strongest to hit South Asia in 100 years, according to Reuters. Tuesday will mark the one-month anniversary of this disaster, in which at least 73,276 have died. The number of injured, according to Reuters, is more than 69,000 and expected to rise. The affected area is at the foot of the Himalayas, and as winter approaches, the 2.8 million people who have been left homeless face an uncertain future.

Relief appears to be pouring into the area in the form of funds and supplies from the United Nations, the United States and even Israel, a nation that is not recognized by Pakistan.

And yet, the media coverage of the earthquake and its aftermath appears to be lacking. When the earthquake and tsunami hit Indonesia and the surrounding areas last December, the death tolls and damages were plastered across the front page of almost every newspaper for more than a month. And although the immediate death toll from the Pakistani earthquake has not hit the 100,000 mark, the count is expected to increase as winter settles over the region and the displaced have limited shelter and resources.

Moreover, the coverage of Hurricane Katrina bordered on media saturation, with nonstop reporting on the disaster from the moment the storm formed. Sure, the earthquake didn't happen in New Orleans. Pakistan is thousands of miles away and there are many issues occurring in the United States that deserve coverage.

But, the media have a responsibility to report the news that is the most important, not just the news that is the most entertaining. Instead of featuring photographs of Tedy Bruschi and Theo Epstein on the front page of The Boston Globe, the paper could be increasing awareness of the ongoing disaster in Southeast Asia.

In an ideal world, we would all be able to donate to the Red Cross or another organization providing relief. As students involved in communications and the media, however, we can do something more. We should be calling for increased coverage and better information on matters that are genuinely important.

Although writing about the plight of people in distant lands may not be the most entertaining or profitable endeavor, it is the duty of the press to report on these events. Whether one is from The Big Easy, Sri Lanka or Pakistan, at the end of the day we are all human. And extreme human suffering-no matter where it occurs-is something we cannot afford to ignore.

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