December 28, 2004
-- IF you were watching TV news over the past few days, it would be hard to know which story carried more weight: The incomprehensible devastation caused by the tsunami which took (at press time) nearly 30,000 lives, or the equally tragic story of airport delays and lost baggage.
Both stories got equal airtime, although the "reporters" were clearly more comfortable standing around luggage carousels at JFK than talking remotely to survivors in the areas of devastation.
In fact, TV news in general treated the disaster like one of those weather stories where the rookie reporter gets battered at the seawall in Canarsie. And every reporter seemed like a rookie this past holiday weekend. Apparently the tsunami would have had to hit Aspen to get the pros off the slopes and onto the story.
When did the Walter Cronkites get replaced by Jessica Simpson clones? All grease and no machinery. And it didn't improve one bit by Monday morning.
Take CNN. Please. Yesterday morning, Rush Limbaugh's (yes), girlfriend, anchor Daryl Kagan, had a seismologist on to discuss the deadly tsunami. She actually asked him what, as a scientist, fascinated him most about the tsunami. Huh?
A "Is Chicken of the Sea chicken or tuna?" moment if ever there was one. We're talking thousands of dead, including children! Get a grip, or better yet, get a reality check.
Kagan then switched with the speed of light to sprightly "reporting" of airport delays with "No eggnog! No tree! No presents!" for some unlucky passengers. What had she done — hit her boyfriend's leftover stash of drugs?
Think about the difference in the solemnity with which 9/11 was reported and how this disaster was reported. Can you imagine switching from Ground Zero coverage in the first few days to say, back-to-school shopping sprees?
Do the news producers believe that it doesn't matter as much to us because the dead are "feriners" — that as humans we can't relate to them as real people somehow?
reality check: Right after Christmas last year, I was in Chennai, India — one city that was devastated by the wave this year.
It is the city where much of the magnificent weaving is done by hand in India. It is a city where I was entertained in the homes of humans who may or may not still be alive. Humans with children and businesses and parents and cars and homes and religions and artistic pursuits and bills to pay. Like us. Thank God for the Internet — especially ironically enough, the TV news Web sites, which were all over the story. Luckily techies don't ski — they just surf.