Tag Archives: Disaster reporting

10 Flood related words/phrases I don’t want to hear again for a long time

1. Mother Nature – a gross misrepresentation of agency. At least be prepared to blame God, but better yet, blame the broken world we live in thanks to sin. See here.
2. Grave fears – seems insensitive in the extreme. How about “serious fears” or just “we fear for their lives”…
3. Inundated – seriously. I heard a lady who had miraculously survived a torrent but who had been cut by barbed wire say her legs had been “inundated” with scratches.
4. Essential items – when talking about bread, milk, and toilet paper).
5. Road closed – especially when it comes to people who have been stupid enough to drive through flooded causeways
6. “Channel Seven” – Ben was onto something when he suggested Channel Seven’s coverage seems to be more about self promoting than flood coverage. You don’t have to throw the words “Channel Seven” in front of any noun to indicate possession. Try “our”… or don’t talk about the thing you’re flying in at all. Mention your reporter by name. Humanise yourselves.
7. Rubbernecking – it’s an ok word when it’s original, but it becomes hackneyed very quickly.
8. We are “____” – insert parochial catchcry here – but “Queenslander” is particularly abhorrent. Anna Bligh’s “Remember who we are, we’re Queenslanders” represents most of the things that are wrong with our state. Least of all, because it works.
9. Anything Julia Gillard says – she talks like a robot version of Kath and Kim. Emotionless strine. If Anna Bligh can run rings around you then you’re in big trouble.
10. Inland tsunami/wall of water.

Some flood related puns/cliches for good measure:

1. Anything Noah related – any jokes about pairs of animals or building an ark.
2. “uncharted waters”
3. A new watermark.
4. “pooling our resources”
5. “swamped”
6. “fatal flood” – alliterative, but unoriginal. Headline writers have been using it since the early chapters of Genesis.
7. “burst its banks”
8. Any personification or application of agency to a stream of water that is actually simply taking the path of least resistance from one place to another.
9. Describing flood losses as “down the drain” or “down the gurgler”
10. Descriptions of flood damaged locales as “ground zero” or a “war zone”

The “Sainted Krishna” prize for “Mixed Spiritual Metaphor” goes to Anna Bligh for:

“I hope and pray that mother nature is leaving us alone to get on with the job of cleaning up and recovering from this event.” source: halfway down this story

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YouTube Tuesday: Chk, Chk, Boom

There’s a slight language (and racism) warning to this video. Though I assume that unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve already seen it.

Opinion on this whole situation – where a 19 year old gives a fake eyewitness account to a TV camera after a non-fatal shooting – is pretty split. I’m in the “I think this was a hilarious way to teach the media a lesson about verifying sources and not looking for a sensationalised quote at all costs” camp.

Seriously, reporting of this sort of shooting with “on the spot, live to air” broadcasts – or even rapid fire report filing – lends itself to this sort of treatment. And I hope she (Clare Werbeloff) rides this 15 minutes of fame as far as it takes her. The media deserve it – and the associated condemnation/celebration being carried out in print and over the airwaves just perpetuates the problem and justifies the behaviour.

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Jensen on TV

I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Philip Jensen. Possibly. He conducted the marriage of my parents. And was the minister at the church where they met – where he was under strict instructions to make sure mum didn’t marry anyone dodgy. His success or otherwise at that is debatable.

Anyway, I digress. Philip Jensen is the Dean of St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney. He has a blog. Of sorts. His latest post is about TV and the immorality – or otherwise – of modern television. It’s an interesting tie in to the post I wrote on the Wire. He starts off talking about Channel 10 news:

“It is hard to watch TV without, gratuitous violence, sexual exhibitionism, vulgarity of speech, dehumanising of the body in grotesque forensic murder investigations and comedians who rarely rise above toilet humour.”

No, sorry, that’s about all TV.

Here’s what he says about the news (with a note on their need for compelling disaster content:

“The alternatives are to watch the news and the sports shows. But the news is distorted by the need to have visuals (e.g. they love bush fire season, floods and train wrecks) and by the agenda of politically motivated journalists. And the sports shows appear dominated by gambling, the abuse of alcohol and overpaid professional celebrity athletes.”

He makes a lot of interesting points – worthy of consideration by Christians from the consumer standpoint – and against censorship – which is the natural position of Christian lobby groups when it comes to “inappropriate content”…

“As a society we do not want censorship. Censorship is always dangerous – as the censor’s power grows, truth is often his victim. Instead our society has chosen individualism and “community standards” as the basis of public entertainment. This assumes that what is watched does not affect community standards. It opens the door for the steady descent of the community into accepting decadence. So far only child pornography has been left as a taboo. “

He also makes the point that we’re all indirectly paying for free-to-air television (not just the ABC).

“The solution that is given to us is: “If you do not like it then switch it off. Nobody forces you to watch it and it is not costing you anything.” It is true that we do not have to watch it but it is not true that it costs us nothing. Taxpayers pay for the ABC and the free-enterprise taxation system called advertising pays for the commercial stations. All products we buy are more expensive because of TV. Whether or not you ever watch it – you are paying for TV.”

He likes DVDs of TV series as alternatives to the tripe that we’re dished up when we turn on the box.

“Of recent times I have purchased and watched DVDs of TV series. This means I can see what I want to, when I want to, without the intrusion of commercials (that for some reason are always louder than the show they interrupt). It means that I can better monitor what fills my mind. God, in Philippians 4:8, commands us to fill our minds with whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Given the cost of DVDs one wonders whether in the future parish churches will develop community libraries to pool our resources of quality viewing.”

A library of quality viewing isn’t a bad idea.

Devine intervention

Miranda Devine sparked controversy by pre-emptively blaming green policy for the fires in the SMH last week. There was an outcry. I even wrote about it. I started following a fake Miranda Devine on Twitter (there’s also a fake Andrew Bolt) – but I can’t link to them because Twitter is down again.

The same venerated publication has another scribe – who leans more to the left – Elizabeth Farrelly. She fired this verbiage seemingly in the direction of her colleague in her take on events.

“Cut the trees! Burn the undergrowth! Hunt the sharks! Lynch the greens! Reprise, repay, repel. But in truth, to swim fish-filled, murky waters at twilight is to tattoo a big ‘BAIT’ sign on your behind. And to inhabit the bush, especially as climate change takes hold, is to make yourself fuel.

Certainly, we should feel compassion. And certainly, there should be regulations. Quite probably there should be more assiduous back-burning. But to blame green policies – to cull already endangered shark species, to reduce tree cover – is to blame nature for human folly.”

Now all the Herald’s big guns (except Annabel Crabb and Peter Hartcher who both write exclusively about politics) have had their say on the matter.

Gittins on Disaster Reporting

The discussion on the reporting of Disasters goes on, here on my post, and elsewhere. Ross Gittins, the SMH’s chief economic reporter, has an interesting piece on it from an insider’s perspective. It’s worth a read. I’ll admit I’ve played devil’s advocate a little in discussions on my post. I think there’s a need to cover disasters and coverage can be helpful to highlight the plight of people suffering as a result of the event. And I think the bushfires are a big deal. The biggest disaster we’ve had to confront on our soil. I stand by those comments. But I also agree with Stuss and Amy that the coverage has gone too far and for too long.

Here’s Gittins’ thesis:

“But media coverage of this one’s gone way over the top. And it’s served to strengthen my suspicion that the community’s reaction to natural disasters is exploitative, voyeuristic, unfair, self-gratifying and even pathological.”

Here are some gems from Gittins thoughtful piece:

On why we watch

“Our emotion-driven caring is highly selective. People with problems get wonderful treatment provided their problems make good TV footage and for the 15 minutes they’re in the media spotlight. People with chronic (old-hat), unphotogenic problems get ignored.”

“Modern city life leaves us with weaker connections to our extended families and neighbours, so whereas once we could let our emotions loose on the misadventures of people we knew, now we need the mass media to provide our emotional exercise.”

On why they broadcast

“Our preoccupation lasts a week or two before the media senses our waning interest and turns away, waiting for the next natural disaster to get excited about.”

“But don’t blame it all on the media. They do what they do because they know it’s what their audience wants.”

“They want the media to give their feelings of sympathy, sorrow and grief a good workout.”

On why we give

“But I also suspect that feeling sympathy for the victims of disasters and rushing to make donations is intended to make us feel good about ourselves.”

“Why does ABC Classic FM carry ads “urging” its listeners to donate? Because management wants its listeners to think well of the station. Why does a bank take out full-page ads announcing all the concessions it’s prepared to make to its affected customers? Because it wants to improve its battered image. I wonder whether the cost of those concessions will come out of the bank’s profits or be spread between its other customers.”

On politics

“Politicians want to be wherever the TV cameras are trained on something exciting. They want to be seen as always on the job, demonstrating their humanity by expressing their profound sympathy for the victims and acting like generals who lead from the front.”

“Like so many things, natural disasters advantage the political incumbents over their opposition. But politicians also act out of fear – fear of the criticism they’d attract from know-all talkback jockeys should they fail visit the scene, or should government agencies be judged to have bungled their response to the tragedy.”

On the shelf life of the coverage

The reason I’m cynical is that I know how fleeting all the professed concern is. I hate things that are fashionable, where everyone has the same opinion and does the same thing at the same time.

But like all fashions, it never lasts. Our preoccupation lasts a week or two before the media senses our waning interest and turns away, waiting for the next natural disaster to get excited about.