Broadcast Coverage on Earthquake in Haiti

I have become increasingly upset about the nature of the coverage of the earthquake in Haiti on American television and other media. CNN, especially, has shifted quite dangerously from plain reporting on conditions to editorializing without knowledge and patting itself on the back. A few hours aho, the New York Times offered an assessment of the coverage, I have added some excerpts below. They also have become quite self-congratulatory and objectionable (see Appeal from Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti below), despite its criticism of others:

Repetition has its place in a frightening emergency; images shown over and over — be it 9/11, the 2004 tsunami or Hurricane Katrina — magnify an event but can also inure the viewer. A joyous reunion of mother and child helps defuse the bracketing tragedy. But too much repetition can backfire when it looks like promotional material. The line between compassion and self-congratulation is thin on television; in a calamity this vast and acute, many viewers flinch at any sign of reportorial showboating.

And this earthquake has its own rules. Usually television is accused of overselling a crisis. The cameras zoom in on a hurricane, a riot or a guerrilla battle, magnifying the most dramatic images and cropping out people walking to work or hanging laundry in the near distance.

The Haiti story doesn’t need hyping; if anything, television understates the horror by balancing harrowing sights with miniature portraits of hope.

The NBC weatherman Al Roker returned from Haiti to the “Today” show on Friday, and Mr. Roker, the usually jolly co-host, didn’t have too much to say. The situation is “awful,” he said. “The pictures almost can’t convey what’s going on down there.”

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