Friday, March 31, 2017

Disaster coverage

Has anyone else noticed how coverage of cyclones seems to go now?

The media sends up a heap of people to a scattered area where a cyclone may hit, and they stand in front of the cameras waiting for the wind to pick up and buildings to start getting blown away around them.

When that doesn't happen on screen, and yet they keep coverage going on for hours on end, trying to talk up how bad it is when there is no real destruction behind them, you start to get people elsewhere in the country doubting that it is all that bad.  (Particularly Right wing culture warriors who want to counter any suggestion of climate change having made any bad weather worse.)

Then, the next day, you start to get some images of damaged buildings, but not too many, because the roads are blocked or flooded, so the TV crews can't get around much anyway.  Again, some viewers are starting to think "not so bad".

Then, by day 3 or 4, when you actually do start getting some more detailed images of ruined resorts, homes, and commercial premises, you get the feeling that people are sick of the coverage and don't care much about they're seeing anyway.

The people around the Whitsunday area have been without power for days now, and I saw, but only on Twitter, that many electricity pylons had been bent over in the cyclone, presumably meaning that some areas will have no power for quite a while yet.   Coverage also indicated that a huge storm downpour in the area caused a lot of flood damage the first or second night after the cyclone.

Daydream Island looks extremely smashed up; Hamilton Island less so, but in both cases, there has actually not been that much video evidence.  We don't even know what some of the other islands look like.

The few locals I have seen interviewed do seem to have considered it to have the worst experience they have had, especially given that the cyclone seemed to be very slow moving, causing them many hours of distressing high wind and rain.

It's been said that there had been damage of a lot of buildings at the inland town of Collinsville, but I don't think I have seen any news video of that at all.

My point is - the way television coverage of cyclones work now, it seems to give a very misleading impression of what has gone on.   Less live coverage of the type we have just seen would actually help correct that.

One other point:   I get the impression, from watching people in the area talking about lack of information, and how they can't communicate because mobile phones can't be charged, that some have sort of forgotten about listening to the local radio station during emergencies (and having plenty of batteries for their AM radio.)  Maybe that's not fair, but I just had the feeling that people are so used to using the internet for information, they seem to now feel there is no other way to get messages if they can't access it.

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