Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I Hate the News...

I usually dislike talking about news, most especially unpleasant news, but this strikes too close to home for me not to mention.
A powerful tropical cyclone with winds of up to 230 kilometers per hour (144 mph) surged ashore in southern Mozambique on Thursday, ripping through buildings, knocking over power pylons and raising fears of new flooding.

Cyclone Favio, the strongest to hit the southern African country, was then heading towards the Zambezi River valley where it was likely to worsen floods that have already killed some 40 people and driven 120,000 from their homes.

The Category 4 storm hit Vilanculos, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the capital Maputo, damaging the tourist town's courthouse, prison and market and destroying several houses.
For comparison's sake, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 storm when it hit Louisiana. So this is a pretty damn big hurricane. What makes it even sadder is that Vilankulos (or Vilanculos, as they call it) was where my sister lived when she was in the Peace Corps. It is where I stayed when I went to Africa. Whenever I going on with one of my "Well, in Africa..." anecdotes, it's always taking place in Mozambique. And now, that place I have so clearly in my memory has been ravaged by the winds and water. A beautiful, beautiful place, decimated. My sister wrote the following note about the situation:

"My poor little town is destroyed.. Talked to my friends and they are ok.. but they said its REALLY bad. The whole town has been wiped out.. no food, water, electricity.. Cesar lost his house.. the new school is destroyed... lots of houses gone.. all roads wiped out.. no trees left.. no beach road...the hospital is very bad.. say prayers.. how sad"
Imagine the following: you've spent years trying to build yourself a house. You put your blood, sweat, and pain into the process. It's hard work, but when it's done, you have something to be proud of. And the next day, it's been destroyed. All the work, gone. All the effort, forgotten. All the accomplishments, erased. Now imagine that happening to an entire town (and others like it). Being a tourist town, Vilankulos is hurt especially bad. How can a broken town attract tourists? (Hmm, this is starting to sound familiar...) It's about as bad a situation as can come.

And yet, how many of you have even heard a single word of this storm until right now? Chances are, not a single one. It has one lonely article on, and is practically nonexistent elsewhere. Hell, if it wasn't for Reuters, I doubt there'd be anything written at all.

Funny, really. People's homes are being destroyed, infrastructure is being ruined, trees uprooted, and to top it all off, the place is flooded. I think you know where I'm going with this. The United States makes the entire world know about its woes. If something devastating happens in the US, you better believe there are at least a page's worth of articles in every paper around the globe. And yet, here is a town - a tourist town, at that - where livelihoods are being ruined by a hurricane, yet because it's in some obscure African country, we hear barely a whisper.

Oh, yeah, and the top stories for CNN, AOL News, and Yahoo News? The goddamn corpse of some dead Playboy broad. Classy.

Say a prayer, please. Some people actually need them.


Unknown said...

you know a much better question would be,

if you or anyone you knew had never gone to Africa; would you have cared about the story?
think about it!

you point that America talks about its woes. well that because it hits close to home. just like Mozambique hits close to home for you. they're American Press reporting American tragedies.

oh and its not America fault that the BBC ocassionally chooses to pick up a story about America.

Don't complain about something other people do when you, yourself, are in the middle of doing it.

Andrew Schnorr said...

Don't try to twist my words.

Yes, I would have cared about the story even if I'd never gone. People suffering is a reason to care. Additionally, I've always cared about the countries that the rest of the world forgets. It was the way I, and my family, was raised. It's the reason my sister went into the Peace Corps in the first place. It's the reason I've raised hundreds of dollars to help build wells in starving villages. It's the reason my mother worked for Habitat for Humanity in South Africa and is now volunteering in a hospital in Tanzania. I'm not tying to sound pompous; it's just that my family is.

I realize you're joking somewhat about the whole "occasionally choosing to pick up a story about America." Either that, or you're a master of understatement. However, I'm quite serious about the whole thing. That comment I made about Anna Nicole Smith? A quick Google search reveals that there are almost 6 times as many stories about her than about anything related to Mozambique. That betrays the principles that journalism is based on. Report what is important, popular or not.

Looking at the New York Times website, an article about how some alien planets have no water is about 6 times the length of the article on the cyclone. "No water on planets." That's almost non-news. It's like saying, "Building Doesn't Catch on Fire."

Alright, I'll get off my soapbox now, but try not to presume things.