The Tsunami Disaster in Southern Asia: Children Will Remain in Crisis Long After the Media Coverage Subsides-- ©Joi Kohlhagen, January 1, 2005Written by Joi Kohlhagen
Unlike many dynamics in society where genesis ultimately evolves and rises until it reaches its apex, media coverage-in all of its forms: print, broadcast, or internet based—is quite opposite. News coverage for all events, particularly those of great disaster and tragedy, begins at its apex, when coverage is ubiquitous, and provides intense and detailed media attention. The reporting always ultimately subsides, over a matter of days, or weeks, or months, depending upon event. In case of tsunami disaster in Southern Asia, where over 150,000 people perished, one third of them estimated to be children and where a projected one million or more children (numbers provided are as of January 1st, 2005, date of this writing) are critically injured, orphaned, and homeless, media coverage will continue for a long while, but in different form and intensity.
The tsunami was a cataclysmic and horrific event in of itself. Yet timing of disaster provided media with additional angles, which in some cases misdirected focus of some of more critical elements of media coverage. The tsunami ravaged through Southern Asia day after Christmas and days before many scheduled world wide New Year's festivities. There was a tragic irony that its victims, many of whom were just a day before happily rejoicing in holiday celebrations, would 24 hours later either succumb to wrath of one of largest tsunamis in history or become seriously injured, orphaned and/or homeless as a result. This singular point of tragic irony was made over and over again, implying as if tsunami had arrived a month earlier or a month later, it somehow would have been less devastating and tragic.
As days became further distanced from Christmas and New Year's Eve approached, there were widely reported accounts that death tolls and enormity of destruction were much worse than initially feared. Predictably—and arguably gratuitously—during New Year's Eve day and night, broadcast and cable television coverage were filled with images of juxtaposition of lavish celebrations for New Year world wide-cutting back intermittently to scenes of unfathomable devastation, body bags lined up further than eye (or television camera) could see, and shots of adults crying in pain and children hoarded in shelters with blank looks of trauma on their faces.
It is improbable that this kind of coverage was planned. There was no natural disaster of this magnitude in recent history for reporters, producers, and editors to use as a frame of reference. The geographically far reaching devastation of disaster, including remote and isolated areas that were without communication systems and where local roads leading to them were destroyed, made meaningful reporting during first days of coverage in those regions nearly impossible.
Even most seasoned journalists often find it difficult to distinguish when reporting of essential and relevant details that provide newsworthy context crosses line to superfluous and maudlin reporting of gratuitous and sometimes exploitative details of a horrific event or its victims. Indeed, after 9/11 tragedy, media was widely criticized for relentless repetition of airing of footage of second plane crashing into former World Trader Center, in addition to airing of similar frequency video of victims jumping out of windows, and excruciating footage of crumbing of buildings. The media was quick to respond and agreed with public outcry. Shortly after, almost all broadcast and cable stations (at least in United States) ceased relentless airing of that footage.
It is reasonably anticipated that there eventually will be a similar shift of coverage of tsunami, shifting reporting of gruesome to reporting of substantial. For example, media will likely report on probable investigations of significant relevance, including lack of warning systems in regions of affected areas; reasons behind why first affected area was not able to be in communication with surrounding areas to provide notice for evacuation attempts, and examination of how to rebuild around fault lines that caused or contributed to disaster.
The media has an even greater responsibility regarding its coverage of tsunami disaster. When media assume task (as well it should) of providing ubiquitous and extensive non-stop coverage for catastrophes, it also has obligation to recognize effect coverage has on many millions of people worldwide. People often equate severity of a situation with amount and intensity of media coverage it receives. It is inevitable that eventually depth of tsunami's destruction will be determined, estimation of number of dead will be finalized, and detailed ironies of holiday period coincidence may (mercifully) no longer seem relevant. The result is that media coverage will eventually diminish significantly, even as reports on various investigations unfold. Any diseases that may emerge will be covered. Updates of humanitarian relief efforts also will continue to be reported, as will coverage of survivors, both those still suffering from medical and psychological trauma and those who are heroically organizing and participating in efforts to rebuild.
The public may not realize how suddenly media coverage will diminish. As indicated above, when ubiquitous and intense media coverage of a catastrophic event eventually and inevitably becomes sporadic, a common consequence is for people to forget, or at least lose a sense that most piercing tragic elements of that horrific event will indefinitely continue to endure. Consciously or not, people often equate level of media coverage to level of magnitude of reported event. It is extremely important for media to frequently point out that even though its coverage will decrease, perhaps in coming months to point of scarce mention, tragedy still endures. Millions of children will likely still be homeless or otherwise harmed and in great need for ongoing medical treatment for their serious injuries and to battle onslaught of diseases that are widely predicted to emerge. They will also continue to be in need of uncontaminated food and water, and other basic necessities of life.
Why A Father is Not A DadWritten by Brian Maloney
It can be said that any man who procreates is a father, whether present in that child’s life or not. While this is technically true, it really takes a man to be a dad!
There is nothing more insulting than a cavalier man thinking he has every right in world to see child he helped to create, but was never there for him or her. It is as if he or she is obligated to him like that of a debt.
As a child of a broken home and now as a father myself, I know purest definition of being a dad is time spent with your child that will always prevail in end.
Would you remember your father more if he was a millionaire but never there, or a near-penniless man who spent time with you and showed you love you needed?
To me, it’s a no brainer!
However, many dynamics can and do interfere with being a dad. Turmoil-ridden marriages, separations, relocations, resentment from child, and ever-abundant brainwashing of a child to hate.
So if you’re a father doing his best to be a dad, how do you overcome such obstacles?
Do everything in your power to maintain bond you have with your child! If that means following that child to Timbuktu and lose your career, getting on better terms with child’s mother, or simply putting more time into strengthening father-child relationship.
If there is anything I can take from my own father, is that of sporadic appearances and child support from over 2000 miles away never satisfied my need for a dad. Today, as a 32 yr. old man, it has never been so evident how important a dad is in a child’s life. My humble opinion is that I would have had a lot less security issues had a dad been present in my childhood.