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The Coverage: Contemplating Haiti

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Since a 7.0 earthquake reduced Port-au Prince, Haiti (and its environs) to a moonscape on Tuesday, January 12, TV news media of all stripes have been showing us the destruction, horror, death, devastation, and growing desperation going on there 24/7. It’s at times like this that TV news is at it’s best when it’s good, and at its most insidious when it’s not, and we’ve had some of both this week.

CNN gets huge points for getting several of its key people on the ground virtually in nano-seconds and giving the world a very clear picture of what’s happening in Haiti. It has also served as a primary outlet for important news and information about rescue plans and activities, and helping people learn how to locate loved ones and to contribute to aid and recovery efforts.

Essentially, all the major cable news channels have been doing this, but with less original reporting and more “opinionating,” some heartless and weird, some melodramatic. I’ve only watched a bit of the broadcast networks, because they’re just not as good, a sad fact, and for the most part they have been confining their coverage to appointed news times. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, it’s just how that part of the industry operates.

PBS certainly hasn’t been 24/7 in its coverage, but as usual, they’ve done some of the best work, screening the necessary horror video, but also conducting more enlightening, even provocative conversations about Haiti’s past, near future, and long range future. The cable channels started doing some of this as well earlier tonight, because I think even they realized they just had to let up a bit on the misery and start talking about the next stages of this situation, which will begin to evolve within days and weeks.

Of course we need to know, and see, the terrible reality of the in-the-present details, especially because things in Haiti are still at the very early stage of search, rescue, basic medical treatment, and the distribution of food, water, and other essentials. But we also need to help start the conversation about greater recovery, rebuilding, making a reality of the economic development plan that was just about to be instituted, etc. News reports with discussion segments and talk shows need to do more of this immediately.

Instead of what they usually do in situations like this – and are doing again, about Haiti. The cable channels tend to air the worst of the disaster footage over and over and over, sometimes not always making clear that it is not live and happening in the moment. And they get hung up on the drama of the "baby in the well" stories, real-life tearjerkers that, by their repetition, create a surreal kind of soap opera out of genuine calamity.

I know the most heart-wrenching and the most miraculous stories make for “good TV.” But the 24/7 format has changed journalism from information provider to social uniter; for bad or ill, that’s what’s so. And it would be helpful if the channels did their job in a more sober, thoughtful, intellectual manner. We might then have a shot in hell of recognizing this disaster as a very long-term, serious issue with significant meaning for the potential impact on the US as well as the future of Haiti itself.

Doing so might also help the mainstream media do something else they do too little of: connect the dots between whatever the current crisis is and past events, which is to say, I haven’t heard any talk about the trend of cataclysmic events we’ve endured in the past decade, the increasing number of especially severe floods, famines, storms, earthquakes, and tornadoes (often in unlikely places).

Then connect the dots even further to the mystery viruses and other diseases that have been striking people worldwide, the sickening of animals, the disappearance of the bees, shocking levels of war, terrorism and social unrest, political upheaval, radical religious fervor, the breakdown of language, the super-power of technology run amok. As Bob Dylan said, "There's something happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones."

Because it’s all interconnected, but there’s a global atmosphere of mindless speed and self-involvement (individuals and nations) that is blind to the trend of fundamental, cataclysmic change, a global (you should excuse the expression) paradigm shift. Of course, that’s just the way I see it, I could be wrong.  But I’m not alone in these ideas and they’re certainly worth talking about, if only as a stepping stone to learning how to better cope in and with disaster in general. Call it national security and it may not sound so strange.

Much of commercial news media ends up making infotainment out of natural disasters, because they are so visual, as well as frighteningly powerful and seemingly out of our control to predict or prevent. But are they, always? Something skittered quickly across the CNN crawl about scientists who warned of an immanent quake in Haiti — but no one reporting expanded on it.

And we’re soon going to reach the point where the news channels would be better served (and so would we) by offering detailed periodic Haiti updates, while devoting more time to other news as well as other aspects of the Haiti situation. It would be a disaster, if not a surprise, if the media and the public lost interest in Haiti after a year or so, they way they did with Katrina, and the East Asian tsunami, and other ravaging events. A little less showbiz now might pave the way for more sustained attention later.

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About Jeanne Browne

  • MizB, as an Internet writer you ought to document (preferably with a hyperlink to an evidentiary web site) your assertion that “the 24/7 format has changed journalism from information provider to social uniter; for bad or ill, that’s what’s so.” With respect, it’s not so merely because you say it is. And when you write “for bad or ill,” you’re making a distinction without a difference.

    I also dispute your insinuations about “the trend of cataclysmic events we’ve endured in the past decade, the increasing number of especially severe floods, famines, storms, earthquakes, and tornadoes (often in unlikely places).” There’s nothing unlikely about a severe earthquake in Haiti, which sits astride a major geologic fault at the convergence of two tectonic plates. Ditto flooding in New Orleans, a city below sea level, following Hurricane Katrina in a region prone to such storms.

    Moreover, you sound paranoid in calling for the mainstream media to “connect the dots to the mystery viruses and other diseases that have been striking people worldwide, the sickening of animals, the disappearance of the bees, shocking levels of war, terrorism and social unrest, political upheaval, radical religious fervor … it’s all interconnected.” Do you mean it’s part of a vast right-wing conspiracy or do you divine the hand of God?

    MizB, this stuff has been going on forever. If you want to connect the dots, turn off your TV and read a book on world history. And while you’re at it, please consult a dictionary to learn the difference between “immanent” and “imminent.” If anyone warned of, as you write, “an immanent quake,” they must’ve been philosophers not scientists.

  • Giochi — I think you forgot to finish your thought.

    Mr. Kurtz — I am not an Internet writer, I am a longtime professional writer now posting on the Internet. This is an opinion column, and my decades of experience working in and on behalf of TV news (among other things) allows me to voice an opinion about what 24/7 has done to broadcast journalism without linking to someone else’s opinion. I also know the difference between immanent and imminent: have you ever heard of a typo? Have you ever had an editor miss one in your copy? When I mentioned disastrous events in “unexpected places,” I was referring to tornadoes in Los Angeles; sorry if my poor sentence structure in that instance confused you. Lastly, when I wrote of interconnects, I was not being paranoid, nor was I referring to a right wing conspiracy OR the divine hand of God, I was again stating an opinion that our planet and humankind seem to be in decay on every level imaginable and that these instances of decay are not isolated events. I’ll monitor my own TV and reading habits, thank you, while observing that if you go back in history far enough, you will find many instances of current events that have occurred previously. And indeed, history frequently repeats itself, which is why it’s useful to learn from it. If I sound churlish in my response to you, it’s because your hostile tone pissed me off – although I acknowledge that your style of commentary seems to dominate here on Blogcritics.

  • Indeed, Mr. Kurtz is himself an obvious internet junkie, which is why his style of commentary is so prevalent on Blogcritics.

    You have surely contributed a great deal to this discussion, Mr. Kurtz. May your efforts in the future be more successful.

  • You hit the nail on the head when you referred to “news” as “infotainment.” I think of it as non-news.

    This is not to say I don’t feel bad for Haiti’s citizens during this catastrophe. All “news” coverage seems to be done for ratings only these days. I flipped over to a few channels for snippets, and it doesn’t matter whose network it is.

    Turn off the TV and read a book? Sounds like a plan. Haiti’s interesting but horrific history would take a person a year to research.

  • I think that one point you might have hit harder to bolster your argument is that EVERY single major anchor high tailed it to Haiti. There was volcanic activity a few years back on one of the islands and then the hurricaines that hit Haiti like last year. And there is no bigger current events junkie than Heloise and I saw little coverage of that other than to say it was going on. Cuba and many islands have been hit hard in the last few years. That’s life on an island.

    That aside I learned that some scientists in Texas two years ago totally predicted the Haiti quake. I just taught catastrophic events and sure enough Haiti sits atop a huge fault. So they had a strike slip earthquake. One in which the two plates just slide against each other. In a way the most damaging because the sliding can go further than the reverse or normal fault.

    This is nature at its finest. Nothing is more powerful, not even the TV anchors who pose in front of cameras. And what did rebuilding or throwing money at poor people ever do?


  • We should exterminate them then in gas chambers. No more problem. Or just let them rot in their own excrement.

  • The Earthquake that hit Haiti was Seven plus on the Richter Scale. Now, even if Haiti had building standards and a strong infra-structure, it is still the worst natural disaster in the last twenty years.

    Turn on the news and show at least a semblance of humanity.

    Oh, that’s right poor Heloise is sick of money being thrown at poor people.
    Now, if the table were turned upside down, then what would we hear?

  • I have to stay here people!

    What is really missing from BC? Balance.

    Please text Haiti to 90999, so that the Red cross can help the POOR!!! people of Haiti.

  • #6,

    I know you are being factious Roger. Others might not…

  • Not really. Just extending Heloise’s thought to its logical conclusion.

    Why prolong the misery when we can end it quickly? Why should anyone give a rat’s ass what happens to poor people?

    It’s money down the drain.

  • MizB, I learned years ago not to rely on editors to catch typos or what you concede is “poor sentence structure.” Editors are underpaid, overstretched and have other things on their minds. So I clean my own copy before submitting it. Of course that takes longer, but at least I don’t embarrass myself. To me, sloppy writing signals not just lazy thinking but, equally bad, disrespect for the craft. Perhaps if you took more care, the style of commentary to your Blogcritics pieces would be less hostile.

  • Here’s a quote and predicts the quake at 7.2 in Haiti.

    “(Newser) – Scientists have known for years that the fault Haiti sits on was due for a large-magnitude quake—they just didn’t know when. A 2008 paper predicted a quake registering up to 7.2, but “it could have been the next day, it could have been 10 years, it could have been 100,” an expert tells the Miami Herald. The quake that struck near Port-au-Prince was the largest since a 1751 temblor that hit the Dominican Republic.

    Geologists surmised that substantial unrelieved pressure had built up in the Enriquillo Fault Line. But even a more precise forecast wouldn’t have solved the infrastructure issues hampering relief efforts. “This is the poorest country in the hemisphere,” a think tank director says. “What are they supposed to do and with what resources?” And there’s more to worry about: The Haiti event hasn’t relieved all the pressure, possibly making a quake in Jamaica or the Dominican Republic more likely.”

    Now, I did my master’s thesis on African religions and the practice of polygamy. Africans are THE most prolific baby makers on earth due to polygamy. Now 38% of the pop is under 15. They have sewn the seeds of their own destruction.

    This is the Haitian holocaust IMO. That means we can try to save them but like history and my study of it shows that genocide and holocausts will NEVER go away. There is no preventive medicine for them. Sending money to Haiti will not help.

    W and Clinton are pitching the send money to Haiti…Hell NO! It needs to be razed. Period.

    Notice that the experts agree with the minority voices–THERE is more destruction to come and there is no helping a place without infrastructure or laws.

  • Even Clavos, our grammar Nazi, couldn’t have said it better.

  • This is 2010!

    The rules you are trying to hold on to here concerning writting skills should be chucked out the window.

    Content is more important!

    But then, all the money a college degree cost wouldn’t matter so much, especially if everyone is let into the private club.

  • Oh and yes Haitians are direct descendants of Africans thus have a high percentage of African blood. They are the real African Americans. If the islands are part of the Americas (not sure if they are but they are in this hemisphere). Their religion of Voodum reflects Afrocentric life.

    They also believe in reincarnation of the ancestors. They actually nailed the belief that my 30 years of research uncovered. People return to their own people.

    One could write a book or article along these lines the research is out there. But no one really gives a hoot about the truth.

  • “Africans are THE most prolific baby makers on earth due to polygamy. Now 38% of the pop is under 15. They have sewn the seeds of their own destruction.”

    Righto, Heloise. They justly deserve it.

    Are you a fundamental Christian, too, to add to the list of your impressive credentials?

  • “But no one really gives a hoot about the truth.”

    What has this got to do with the price of tea in China?

  • It is my understanding that Haiti has more young than old right now due to regular and consistent genocide of her people..was that included in your thesis?

  • Jeannie, “What if the tables were turned upside down…” Glad you asked:

    I understand your ignorance. I work on the mental and astral planes. That’s where you see these things coming. Perfect example I predicted in Dinner With Da Vinci the total destruction of New Orleans. Oh, did I mention I used to live in NOLA? My family is from there (maternal). Jeannie I saw the destruction by water and mud of NOLA, wrote it, dreamed it, predicted it and guess what>>> I LEFT NOLA in 1977. I did not know when the destruction would come. I left well in advance of it.

    So, for the advanced, the initiated, those who meditate and follow the inner path, there are no surprises like that. We see, we prepare. Few listen.

    JD you need to meditate more.

  • STM

    “Even Clavos, our grammar Nazi, couldn’t have said it better.”

    Where is Clav (and how is Clav)? Anyone know … ??

  • You’ve got his email address, Stan. But it has been close to two months now.

  • You know, I didn’t post my consistent comment to this thread yet.

    PLEASE, Text Haiti to 90999, so that the people of Haiti, especially the innocent little babies, can receive PLUMPY NUT, water and care from the Red Cross and the rest of the world!

  • “I work on the mental and astral planes.”

    Wow. For years I tried to master that technique, thus far to no avail.

  • Must be more effective than voodoo.

  • ET has landed folks!

    Don’t you hear the astral plains? ask them for an explanation

  • Roger I am a heretic. I was baptized, confirmed Catholic, baptized Unity Church, baptized BAC (born again C) and initiated in 1979 by an Indian master. And did my own research on rebirth for over 30 years. My son and sister are BAC who are over zealous. They think I am evil naturally because I told them no way am I going to disavow the truth, the experience of rebirth as I know it.

    The end is coming. But in it we will learn about our true beginnings and take control of our own karma away from Kal (who administers the karma of the 3 worlds.) That’s why shit happens. The devil is working overtime to keep things running smoothly on earth so that people will want to stay here.

    He is very worried when rich, white people get exterminated:) When poor black people die he wants the good folks to help out so that they find a purpose for their lives and want to keep on living. It is circuitous karma. So if you overinvolve yourself in do gooding you create good karma. That is as bad as bad karma because you then have to reap the good that you’ve sewn. Thanks but no thanks I say.

  • Ha ha ha ha ha

    That was my first true laugh in days!!!

    Thanks for the comic relief!

  • #25 Heloise does not need the explanation. YOU DO.

  • Sounds like you didn’t make it totally out of that second birth canal.

  • JD, you are a perfect example of humanity. One of them is that the eyes are closed. That is what the end is about–the eyes will be opened and there will be no more tears. Go back to sleep Jeannie.

  • You are entertaining H, but there are more important reasons for me to be here..BYEEEEE

  • Heloise,

    I am not a student of Gita or Buddhist philosophy, but you should read Strindberg’s delightful work, A Dream Play. It’s a variation whereby a daughter of Indra descends to earth and secures intercession to alleviate human suffering.

    My position is, even if this world is a world of appearances, we still have to act according to our best light, as though it were real.

  • Would anyone like to comment on the media coverage of the earthquake in Haiti?

  • Here’s one link, Jeanne.

    Taken from this thread.

  • I wish the MSM gave coverage to what’s going on within our own borders as much coverage. The problem is human disasters equal great ratings. Cynical? Yes. Honest? Absolutely!

  • FitzBoodle

    Haiti is now overrun with too many reporters and the single runway Haitian airport is stupidly clogged with planes bringing in even more reporters and their accoutrements.

    Meanwhile, aid bearing planes have to stand off in Santa Domingo, Miami, etc., so that a superabundance of reporters can get their licks in.

    How can it be? This is the payoff for many years of the MSM sucking up to and brown-nosing the Administration: useful aid missions are elbowed aside to let publicity-seeking TV personalities into Haiti.

    About the only use I can see for these TV characters is if the Haitians start roasting them over BBQ fires for nutrition.

    Hey, it could happen, and maybe it should.

  • Thanks, Roger; you too, Silas, and agreed.

    Heloise – I’m an ordained Interfaith Minister of Spiritual Counseling, Jewish AND a Spiritualist, a Tarot scholar/reader, and a believer in the 2012 prophecies (not that the world will come to an end, but the world AS WE KNOW IT will end, leading to a very different new beginning), and I gotta tell ya, the way your describe your views often sounds wacky and is frequently unclear. The readers/commenters here on Blogcritics are generally very literal in their own views and their interpretations of others (not to mention angry, hostile and rude, for no apparent reason). I don’t think you’re gonna win any fans or converts here…

    Mr. Kurtz – Get a life.

  • Well, at least Heloise sort of explained she isn’t exactly cold-hearted, that her views stem from having been immersed in some kind of Buddhist philosophy. My understanding of karma, however, is different from hers.

    For some reason, she holds these people as doomed forever. I don’t think Buddha was this cruel.

  • Jeanne, for the record I also believe that something profound will occur in 2012. I hope and pray that I live to see it. I’m not a big fan of prophecy or doomsday scenarios but there is something that gnaws my soul — I feel it. Part of what I feel probably comes from the prophecies of St. Malachy which my Irish Grandmother used to refer to as St. Malarchy. We are indeed on the precipice of a new age and thanks to the Divine’s gift of Free Will, we may very well be the architects of what transpires next.

  • Agreed again, Silas, and I would add that thinking/speaking in geological/universal time, we’re already working our way up to the climax of 2012 and have been since at least 2000. I believe that everything: 9/11, the tsunami, Katrina/Rita, the earthquakes in Asia, swine flu, bird flu, the disappearance of the bees, our current ridiculous wars, and our own economic collapse (just to name a few of the calamities of the past decade) are the “overture” to 2012. Actually, in my heart-of-hearts, I believe it began sooner, with the election of Ronald Reagan and the assassination of John Lennon, both at the end of 1980. But of course, it’s this kind of talk that makes the in-the-moment literalists think that I and those who think similarly are crazy and therefore to be discounted on any subject. Personally, I don’t care. I just hope I can stay out of harm’s way between now and the end of 2012, witness something profound, then DIE, because I don’t care to be part of the post-apocalyptic future. If nothing else, it helps assuage my fears about what will become of me in my old age…

  • Actually, Jeanne, I think it began in 1963 and the assassination of JFK. That fateful day in Dallas set in motion events beyond our wildest dreams back then. The 60’s were the transformation which led to the election of Ronald Reagan. I remember as a little boy watching the funeral of Pope John XXIII and Granny saying that life would never be the same for the Church. She was right. Vatican II was in motion. The election of Montini (Paul VI) reformed the Roman Church. By the time Albino Luciani became Pope, the fate of the Church had been sealed. John Paul I knew only too well that it was time for change and by the intervention of God or Man, he was taken away before he had teh chance to accomplish what he saw as his mission. Karol Wojtila set the stage for the political cataclysm which occurred in Eastern Europe. While we Americans like to say it was Reagan, we cannot discount John Paul II’s role.

  • Silas, you make excellent points about JFK’s assassination, the machinations of the Church and political upheaval in Eastern Europe as major turning points in global civilization/decay. For that matter, there’s a case to be made that the 2012 overture began with WWII or even the Industrial Revolution then WWI. It’s not possible to go too far back in relatively recent chronological time to see the seeds of the beginning of the end. You or I should write a new post on this subject, since I’m now guilty of contributing to this thread going way off topic. Would you like to take it from here and I’ll chime in with pithy comments (smile)??

  • I’m going to meditate on that, Jeanne, and I think I may just take you up on the challenge.

  • MizB, I appreciate your advice to get a life, which I presume means a life similar in richness and profundity to your own. Alas, my miserable, paltry existence is the only one I can afford, and believe me I’ve shopped for alternatives. Anyhow, I admire your attempt to moderate this forum. Wading into the midst of BC’s most compulsive commenters to nudge them back on topic takes guts. Even better, in your own subsequent comments you managed to explain what confused me in your original article, which ought to have disclosed up front that you are an ordained Interfaith Minister of Spiritual Counseling, Jewish AND a Spiritualist, a Tarot scholar/reader, and a believer in the 2012 prophecies. Now I understand your obsession with connecting dots.

    “Of course,” you write, “it’s this kind of talk that makes the in-the-moment literalists think that I and those who think similarly are crazy and therefore to be discounted on any subject. Personally, I don’t care.” Since you don’t care, you won’t be offended if I confirm that at least one in-the-moment literalist thinks you are crazy and therefore to be discounted on any subject. In particular, your assessment that Heloise’s viewpoint “often sounds wacky and is frequently unclear” is MizB’s pot calling Heloise’s kettle black. You owe her an apology.