Over at Poynter Online, columnist Jill Geisler is challenging American news editors and journalists to report on the Asian tsunami with the seriousness, depth, focus and long-term attention that it demands and deserves. Just a few of her well-aimed questions:
Will this story get as much coverage as the Scott Peterson case?
Will U.S. media invest its mighty resources into a story that is far from home, affects mostly people of other nations, and is relentlessly painful to witness?
Will newsroom leaders see in this story the opportunities to bring readers and viewers closer to people, places, and issues they may never have known?
...[C]hances are some of your veteran staff may be taking holiday time off. Who, then, is stepping up to offer a vision for remarkable coverage right now? Who is thinking globally, locally, and journalistically?
Oddly enough, some answers come from TIME magazine in the article, 10 Things We Learned About Blogs.
...Bloggers Keep News Alive
So your blog hasn't succeeded in getting national attention for your pet issue? Don't lose heart. Just blog, link and repeat. It worked for conservative bloggers like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who trumpeted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's claims this summer, as well as for liberal blogs like Daily Kos, which investigated evidence that President Bush wore a wire in his first debate. Some of the issues had questionable merit, but persistent bloggers made the subjects tough to ignore. Say it enough times online, and someone is bound to hear you...
For that matter, will anyone present it in a way that makes it actually look any worse than a typical large Florida hurricane? State and local media in the northeast (US) don't seem to be presenting it any differently, yet the numbers tell a different story...
I've been intermittently watching CNN, which is keeping a firm international focus, although breathless. Scenes of devastation segue to "amazing survivor stories," then to interviews with individuals (Americans) who have a loved one missing in the disaster area--these seem exploitative, although the people can surprise you with their grace ("Travel is exciting, I think you need to be prepared, but I don't think people shouldn't go. This is a freaky thing," says a man, a doctor, leaving tomorrow to go look for his missing son.)
Overall, CNN's approach seems very minute-by-minute, letting events drive the coverage.
Although, kudos to Anderson Cooper: he just closed his segment saying with sincerity that words are rendered meaningless in this situation, and pictures show only tiny slices of what is happening.
He noted that the death toll is approaching the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War. So there is your visual metaphor: a Vietnam Veteran's Memorial wall worth of people lost just in the first day of this disaster.