Hurricane Irene

I feel like I can’t let Hurricane Irene pass by without somehow acknowledging it on the blog, despite the fact that it is not directly related to being outside the bubble.  I can’t claim to have a blog that is plugged in to current events and other newsworthy things without mentioning Irene. 

So first off, my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this hurricane.

Secondly, just the fact that I am back in a zip code where hurricanes are not only a possibility, but a legitimate worry, reminds me how far outside the bubble I am.  Hurricanes were never on the radar while I was at college in the Midwest.  There was the occasional tornado warning, and frequent blizzards, but never hurricanes.  I’ll have to get used to that again now that I am back on the East Coast.

Thirdly, as a former journalism student, I was naturally interested in the media coverage of the hurricane.  Which actually was a tropical storm by the time it reached Massachusetts, contrary to all the reports I saw on “The Hurricane Channel” on our satellite dish.

A couple points to make here:

1. I have to acknowledge that my dad predicted that Irene wouldn’t still be a hurricane by the time it reached us, and I disagreed with him, only to be proven wrong (Yes, I said it, WRONG.  That one sentence will make his day, trust me.).

2. Yes, you read that right: The Hurricane Channel.  The perfect vice for all paranoid weather-watchers out there (I may have been one of them at points of the weekend).

3. I in no way want to diminish the degree of damage and suffering that this hurricane did in fact cause.  But the response to the media coverage of this weather event has been interesting.  A tweet by one of my former ND journalism professors first got me thinking along these lines, and then I did some research.  Some say that it was blown out of proportion in a race to get good ratings, like this guyOthers think that just maybe the media hype helped people be more prepared.

4. I’m not sure what I think.  Which, I know, is not the best response.  The same journalism professor whose tweet got me thinking once told me to never pose a question in a piece that I can’t answer.  So I’ve got to at least try and formulate some thoughts here:

I’ve always been a “better safe than sorry” kind of girl, someone who likes to have as much information as possible and be prepared for the worst.  Which is why I did in fact watch The Hurricane Channel this weekend, as it broadcast reports from news outlets in the areas where the hurriance was hitting at that time.

And I was taught by a number of excellent journalism professors that it is a journalist’s responsibility to inform the public, as well as minimize harm.  So as long as these stories were broadcast as an attempt to keep people informed and help them prepare for the storm, I’m ok with it.  Any attempt to spread fear or panic in exchange for ratings, I’m not so ok with.  And only the networks can answer that question for us.

So I may not have all the answers to the questions I’ve posed here, but I definitely had some good food for thought this weekend, as I rode out the storm.  Anyone else want to weigh in with any thoughts or opinions on the media coverage?

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