A bitch has watched coverage of the disaster in Haiti…as much as it makes my heart break, I can’t help but feel that if the Haitian people can endure it I can at least witness it.
A lot of the stories have been about escalating violence and/or looting.
I was reminded of a wicked storm that hit the St. Louis region a few years ago. We lost power for over a week and it was hot and most of the city baked with little to no news of when the heat would break or power would be restored. Almost immediately my fellow St. Louisans kind of freaked out…they went to the few stores that were open and bought them out, they pitched fits at gas stations because the pumps weren’t working without power and generally people reacted with a kind of I’m-on-the-edge-and-may-lose-my-shit-at-any-moment attitude that was scary. The National Guard was called in to help clean up and maintain order…and no, not just for "black neighborhoods" (ugh).
The power was finally restored for most of us within a week and I only mention it because it relates to the coverage of Haiti after the horrific earthquake that hit last week.
If well fed (for the most part), healthy St. Louisans who still had our hot as hell but stable homes to return to (for the most part) kind of freaked out after losing power for a week…just try to imagine how you’d react if you were already hungry, if you were surrounded by death and destruction, if you were in pain, if you were in shock, if you hadn’t had water for days and were sitting out in the street unable to escape the wretched stench of rotting friends and relatives…just try to imagine how you’d handle that.
And then, after you’ve imagined your reaction, look around and know that even your worst imaginations can’t come close to what people in Haiti are dealing with.
I’d like to acknowledge America this Morning’s (ABC News) reporting as an exception to the "look at the natives getting violent - we've got film!!" coverage. I was impressed with the follow-up coverage ABC News has done on stories so that viewers like me know where aide has made it and where it still needs to go. I'm also impressed with how many reporters they have on the ground and how they’ve been covering the news without becoming the news (the exception being medical reporters who have stepped in to treat the injured and Robin Roberts from Good Morning America's quest to unite would-be adopted Haitian children with their would-be American parents via satellite).
But I am most impressed by a specific report filed by Martha Raddatz and how she related news of looting in Port-au-Prince by explaining that some of the looters were desperate for food and others were desperate for anything (like toothpaste to smear under their nose) to mask the smell of decaying bodies.
It might seem like such a little insignificant thing...but for those in need who rely on news coverage to help frame the scope of this disaster, that explanation is the very definition of important.
There is looting for profit and then there is looting for survival…
…just like there is coverage and then there is reporting.