Culture Of Forgetting
BY BEATRICE DUPUY
Seas of blue tarp tents are sprawled out in rows along a section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Families lay inside, shading themselves from the heat beating down on their temporary home. Their thirst remains unquenched for fear of catching the disease that has taken the lives so many of their young. Most of the supplies that these families have received were stolen from them. They rely not on their government to save them, but on their God.
Weeks after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, reporters swarmed these tents demanding stories for viewers back home. One year later, no cameras remain to document the aid these families were promised but never received. No cameras are there to document the children dying of Cholera and their destitute parents forced to bury them. One year after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, around 1.5 million Haitians are still suffering. The media has the power to influence millions of Americans to help promote change, but how can any real change be accomplished if the media’s coverage stops, even though the problem still exists. The media needs to honor its responsibility to fully report the whole story, not just when it’s breaking, so countries like Haiti are no longer forgotten. In the case of Haiti, the media left as soon as it decided that Americans needed a break from the images of the Haitians suffering. However, while the Americans could simply change the channel, the Haitians could not change their state of need. Initially, the earthquake had the media clamoring to get any images it could of Haiti to boost ratings and cash flow to help Haiti. While aid did flow in to help Haiti, much of it left soon after the coverage ended. According to the Associated Press Haiti was promised $1.15 billion in relief, which Haiti has not received as of October. Along with the earthquake, Haiti has had to endure a recent hurricane and an outbreak of Cholera. The media’s neglect towards foreign affairs is unjust and will only leave American citizens ignorant of the problems in the world. Where are the ethics of the American media if it can allow its reporters to leave behind those in need for stories about celebrity scandals?
After the Haiti earthquake, the media’s newest fad then became the Gulf Oil Spill. The media spent months covering the oil spill, yet when the well was capped it abandoned the Gulf as well as Haiti. While people may think that the “largest accidental oil spill in history” has been taken care of, they are sadly mistaken. Most people don’t realize that just because the oil well is capped does not mean the cleaning effort is over; in fact, it has just begun. Scientists have just begun to test the effects of the oil spill on the gulf and the coastal marshes, and stated that it will take years to understand the exact impact. However, that impact is already evident, as many branches of coral close to the BP well have been found dead. Thus, the end of the media’s coverage has mistakenly lulled many Americans into believing that the damage of the oil spill has vanished, when in reality much still needs to be done. It is simply wrong for the American media to mislead Americans into believing everything has been resolved.
One event that has dissipated from the memory of many Americans is the storm that is one of the most expensive on record: Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina left around 1,700 Americans dead and thousands more displaced and unable to return home. During their initial reporting of the Hurricane, the media spent countless hours devoted to Katrina and President George W. Bush’s actions while handling the situation. However, nowadays, except for anniversary specials, Hurricane Katrina is not shown. Resulting in the American people forgetting about an event that happened on their own soil. New Orleans is still dealing with Katrina’s aftermath five years later and much work remains to be completed. When the media ended its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, it allowed American’s all over the United States to forget that their fellow Americans were still in need of their help. Therefore, such historical events must be remembered so that New Orleans and other cities devastated by Katrina will have the help they need to prosper in the future.
These events must be kept alive through the media, which can help promote action to prevent loss of life and increase aid to help those in desperate need. Citizen journalists can help the media keep these serious issues alive by writing in blogs and use social networking sites to create a call to action. The New York Times keeps a facebook page called Haiti Earthquake Recovery dedicated to Haiti with updates on Haiti’s situation and the demand for aid. But, that one instance is not enough. The media must remind the American people that serious problems don’t disappear once the cameras get turned off.