Natural disasters. Are they happening more frequently? Or is the media allowing us to see it all? It sure seems that every time you turn on the news these days, there is a new story about a natural disaster somewhere in the world. Is the world coming to and end, or are we just privileged in this day and age with better, more comprehensive news coverage. With multiple national news channels available on our televisions, and enough news websites to keep a reader occupied for days, it may lead some of us to believe that there is just more of these “natural disasters” being reported.
Think about it. 20 years ago, the internet was still in its developing stages and there were very few televised news programs other than local news stations. There was simply less media in general. It was very possible for several natural disasters to be occurring simultaneously and we would have no way of knowing about them. Nowadays, we are informed of these disasters almost instantaneously. From twitter, to Facebook, to CNN.com, we are really exposed to a smorgasboard of news coverage. If something big happens anywhere in the world, you would almost have to be living in a cave to NOT know about it. Smartphones make it even more easy to receive up to the minute reports and stories about these natural disasters. We are even able to see videos on our phones of what is going on. Coverage of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods is only a click away these days. I remember watching a video of a tornado in Oklahoma happening live on my Facebook news feed. I watched as homes were demolished. Roofing shingles were flying around like bullets, and people’s livelihoods were destroyed in a matter of seconds…all on the screen of my smartphone in the comfort of my own home.
One benefit of this massive media presence in these disasters is the footage and stories of recovery. It is very powerful to see a community come together to try and salvage what is left of their lives and begin the road to recovery. Without media coverage of these natural disasters, we would never see what happens in the aftermath. Often, these stories lead to an influx of volunteers who would have otherwise had nothing to do with the recovery process. In many cases, volunteers are turned away because there are just too many people willing to help. Without media coverage, it is hard to imagine this situation occurring.
A possible negative effect of all this coverage is the creation of fear by the media. When all we see on the news is stories of destruction and the loss of human lives it becomes quite feasible to develop a very negative view of the world and the feeling that we are all doomed. This fear can manifest itself in many ways and it is impossible to quantify how much these stories bring about this fear. However, one would be hard pressed to say that we live in a world where safety has become more of a concern than ever, and this is possibly a positive side effect of this “fear”.
Some, however, will still argue that these natural disasters ARE increasing in frequency and that the world may in fact, be coming to an end. This is a bit of a grim view in my opinion and hopefully misguided.