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Bottom line
Let's be real about what you can or should expect of the media in covering the Bam quake

By James M. Nugent
January 8, 2004

Mitra Sadrameli asks the following : "For crying out loud, what has to happen in other parts of the world before we devote real time discussing their plight? Why is it that the power outage receives non-stop attention for three days and on the other hand 20,000 dead, more than 70% of a city demolished, a UN designated world heritage site's leveling flat, receives a passing mention?" [See: For crying out loud]

And I'm left wondering what more can you expect? On Sunday, 28 December, two days after the quake, the disaster was the lead story for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times online; the first top story on the CNN web site; the fourth story on the Washington Post's web site; and played in a prominent position on National Public radio; and, for good measure, it was also the lead story at the BBC's web site.

Of course those are just the news sites that I visit on a regular basis. The fact is that no American can go to an online web site, or likely turn on the news today, and not see or hear something about the Bam tragedy.

What this boils down to is that for all of your own misperceptions about coverage, what there is right now is hardly a passing mention and I would strongly encourage anyone who doesn't think this significant coverage, two days after an event occurred, to get real about what to expect of the U.S. or any other press, with the exception of the Iranian press which I would expect to be covering this disaster with all the verve and vigor that the American press dedicated to the east coast blackout.

Here's reality: Few Americans know Iranians, have any sense of connection to Iran, if they can find where Iran is on a map (not very likely, alas) they have no clue where Bam is or why Bam is important to Iran other than as any other city. Iranians are not in this category of ignorance and how they react to this, and apparently what they are inclined to expect of the international coverage of this, would be a few orders of magnitude different than the average Americans.

But again, let's be real about what you can or should expect here. The story is front page news, still, and it's competing with many other stories. Here Americans are in fact more curious and potentially fearful of what's going on with Mad Cow disease than they are about the earthquake and its victims for the simple reason that the former is something that they believe may affect them or their families; this is a story, and the blackout, is one they feel may affect them personally, the earthquake just isn't in that league.

As I see it the crux of what the news coverage is for centers on compelling people to take an interest and to help in anyway they can to assist people in a part of the world they're not familiar with and whom they'll likely never meet -- how much coverage can and should be expected to meet this end before people just turn it off?

Maybe from an Iranian-American's perspective the earthquake is getting too little coverage, but from mine it's getting what it should and what I think should be expected for an event that's occurring 8,000 miles away. I've sent off what I can reasonably afford to the International Red Cross specifically to help with the earthquake and I hope many other Americans have done the same thing.

More coverage is not going to change what I've already done, though if the situation gets worse I would then start writing to congressman and senators if I felt my government was not adequately assisting the Iranian people. Bottom line, I think the coverage is doing what is required of it and there's only but so much one can expect for coverage or interest for anything that happens outside any country's borders that doesn't directly affect that country >>> Bam benefit concert, Palo Alto, Saturday, January 10

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