One criticism frequently levelled against the media is that we habitually devote acres of space to disasters involving ourselves and other first world nations and relegate bigger catastrophes in the developing world to a couple of paragraphs on page 44.
It is true that this happens but I don’t regard it as particularly evil. It is no different from the fact that a television station in Guatemala will run big on an earthquake in nearby Nicaragua yet ignore or downplay something much worse which happened in Australia or Indonesia or Thailand. Proximity and familiarity motivate these news judgments. I doubt the Queensland floods or the Victorian bushfires were on the front page of many newspapers in Africa.
The coverage of Hurricane Sandy in Australia this week has been massive, and understandably so, as we have a close relationship with America, many of us have holidayed there, many of us have lived or do live there.
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Natural disasters can be horrific and Australians have suffered our fair share over the years. Australians generally have a big heart when it comes to large scale calamities and are often the first to reach into their pockets following disasters locally and around the world.
However the cold political reality is that a hurricane like the one battering the US East Coast is often the saviour political operators within the ranks of the incumbent party secretly hope for.
It’s not some cynical commenter’s view but rather a historical political fact. Times of civil upheaval on a local, national and often global level generally favour the incumbent.
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Welcome to the modern world of TV news and our incredibly up-to-date coverage of this really big and terrible storm bearing down upon America’s north east coast.
This storm is so massive and awesomely destructive that we are reporting directly from the really exposed, dangerous bits of the flooded coastline with only our colourful jackets to protect us.
Never mind that our presence makes a mockery of evacuation orders for ordinary citizens. Never mind that our soggy reporters in the field can’t actually hear the news anchor, or that they could be swept away by the storm surge, or instantly sliced like crinkle cut chips by a piece of flying debris.
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