Posted by: sabrina | October 3, 2009

Natural disasters in & out of news

EARTHQUAKE, storm, tsunami, flooding.

Those are possibly the most frequent natural disasters – and all of them have happened within a month and turned holiday-maker’s paradises into loci of destruction and devastation.

Waking up on 30 September, the third day of my holidays, because my friend in Germany decided to text at 7 am, was weird, especially when I read: “Saw on TV there’s tsunami warning for NZ”.

It was hours later until I finally found out about the 8.3 strong and 33km-deep earthquake southwest of American-Samoa that has caused tsunami warnings for the Samoan region, the US and Australasia.

read about the earthquake & tsunami warnings on NewsWire

STUFF.CO.NZ: Three Kiwi teachers tell about how they managed to flee the big wave. – read the story here

~   ~   ~


Flooding caused by typhoon Ketsana left the Philippines under water (pic: ABC)

WHILE New Zealand’s tsunami alert was made public all over the world, another natural disaster in a different part of the world unfortuantely got only very poor media coverage.

80% of Manila, capital of the Philippines, were flooded last weekend, after storm Ketsana had turned into a typhoon.

The Filippino word “Bayanihan” (loosely translated to “reaching out”/”helping hands”) describes the spirit amongst the people in the affected areas probably the best: people offer each other shelter and fast-food chains give away free food.

Whitireia Community Dean of Arts, Kaye Jujnovich, who has been promoting New Zealand and Whitireia in the Philippines for the last few years, found a way to support the people affected.


Drawing - raffled to help people in the Philippines' flooded capital. (pic: K. Jujnovich)

She plans to collect funds of US$ 750 to be taken over to Manila’s Miriam College, a catholic women’s school – “enough to buy rice, clean water, etc. for a few”.

Kaye has also successfully raffled a drawing, donated by Rudy Whitehouse-Lopez (Head of Visiual Arts) at Whitireia’s Jewellery Auction this week.

On the first day of her fund-raising, she already managed to get NZ$ 160 together: “I think that is a good amount for day one.”

– read the whole story here

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Sometimes, it hurts me to see how the media use their power – or DON’T use it, I should say. During the last week, I stumbled over so many things that did not get the attention they deserved. I don’t want to criticise the reporters so much, nor the editors or the newspapers. It’s possibly not even a problem of the industry, but a problem of society, that we (as readers/listeners/viewers) would rather pay attention to devastating news about a rising death toll in a natural disaster than to something like the peace march. News, unfortunately, is in most cases about bad news. Who wants to hear good news anyway?

Some people do, obviously. Back in Germany, in Stuttgart, which is reasonably close to my hometown, a monthly paper just celebrated it’s second birthday. GOOD NEWS is about good news: the paper reports on what makes Stuttgart and the close region to such a special place. More than 80% of the people living in Stuttgart know and read GOOD NEWS – for me, that is a sign that people want to hear about positive things.

I was honestly shocked to see how little media attention the opening of the World March of Peace and Non-violence got before it started. I suppose, it has improved a little bit over the last couple of days ( leads in with the march today), but you have hardly heard about it beforehand – although it is an international event (with an important meaning!) that starts here, in our beautiful capital Wellington, because New Zealand is rated the most peaceful nation on earth. That is good news, indeed. And no one seems to care.

So, do people only care about bad, devastating news? Do shocking pictures of dead bodies, bloodshed and destroyed homes grab their attention? Well, obviously neither, because the news coverage about the floodings in Manila was as poor as the coverage of the march, if not even poorer. I only heard about it from my tutor – opposed to that, I had read at least a little bit about the peace march in the DomPost, a few weeks ago.

It makes me sad that no one seems to care that 80% of Manila were under water. I have never been to Manila, I have no special connection to this place – but I still feel for the people who lost their homes and it hurts me to see that me and you may be able to help them – if we knew about what is going on there.

Most journalists report on what is going on in the world (and then publish what the editor picks as the most important issue).

I reckon, journalists should see their job differently: we need to report on what’s going on in the world, to make it a better place. To give everyone all the possibilities to contribute to make it a better place.

We should report, so that people have the chance to act on what they have heard from us – in a positive way.


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