The Intersection


[Image courtesy of Meteo-France (click for full-size version) showing the tracks of tropical cyclones in the South Indian ocean during the 2006-2007 season. Note that cyclones 3 (Bondo), 5 (Clovis), 12 (Indlala), and 14 (Jaya) made direct landfalls in Madagascar. Cyclones 9 (Favio) and 10 (Gamede) did not make direct landfalls but their circulations affected the island nevertheless.]

When Britney shaves her head, everybody hears about it.

When Ana Nicole Smith dies, everybody hears about it.

But when Madagascar gets struck by a record six tropical cyclones in one season, killing hundreds and displacing perhaps as many as a hundred thousand, not to mention jeopardizing food supplies for many more, does it garner major and sustained U.S. press coverage?

My recent Lexis-Nexis searches suggest no. Indeed, just ask yourself: Has the press made you aware of the disaster in Madagascar right now? I think the answer is dead obvious.

What a sad commentary on our media today….

UPDATE: Matt Nisbet blogs this post and discusses the “proximity bias” of the U.S. media…

P.S.: I don’t know much about how best to send a donation to relief efforts in Madagascar if you’re so inclined. But certainly a good bet would be the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Here’s how to give, and here’s their Madagascar page. You can see they’re working specifically on the cyclone issue.


  1. #1 Gerard Harbison
    April 4, 2007

    Has the press made you aware of the disaster in Madagascar right now? I think the answer is dead obvious.

    Actually, the answer is yes, but that’s because I subscribe to the Economist. It is impossible, in my opinion, to stay informed about world news if one restricts oneself to the American media. The Economist, on the other hand, has excellent international coverage.

  2. #2 Dano
    April 4, 2007

    I second Gerard’s motion. If you don’t have a couple of your favorite furrin papers bookmarked by now, what’s wrong with this picture?



  3. #3 Matt Penfold
    April 4, 2007

    I too knew about the number of cylones that had hit Madagascar but I do live in the UK. I do not normally read a daily newspaper but do have the Independent on Sunday which has covered this. When BBC Radio 4 closes down at night (itself a truly wonderful station) its frequncies get used by the BBC World Service. I love the BBC World Service. It news coverage helps get stories that having big in the UK during the day into perspective. Very often the lead item of the BBC domestic news agenda is way down the BBC World Service one. The BBC World Service has had considerable coverage of the situation in Madagascar.

  4. #4 Swan
    April 4, 2007

    Another thing the media hasn’t been paying adequate attention to:

    There is a great post on The Carpetbagger Report from a few days ago about the mainstream media’s (specifically Time magazine’s) ignoring the prosecutor purge scandal.

    What explains the failure of the mainstream media to cover the purge scandal for so long, and so many other scandals? Do you think somebody just set up newspaper editors to cheat on their wives, and threatened to tell if the editors wouldn’t play ball when they come back some day and ask for something?

    It wouldn’t be that hard to do, when you think about it. People wouldn’t talk about it.

  5. #5 Katie Kish
    April 4, 2007

    I work for a campus radio station – we are basically fed a lot of the news that we’re supposed to read out… Today on my show I’m supposed to cover the local burlesque show, some nelly furtado news (where I live, on International day to end Racism… our mayor deemed it “Nelly Furtado Day”) and something with the headline “Alanis humps her way to a hit”

    So I didn’t know a thing about Madagascar… What’s pathetic is these are the types of headlines we’re being told to spew out to the campus … But I’ll most definitely be replacing these headlines today with news about Madagascar. It will result in a slap on the wrist or two, but on a progressive campus I’m not really sure why we should be talking about Alanis and Nelly instead of the earth.

  6. #6 Dano
    April 5, 2007

    Every so often, a blogger will show us the Time magazine covers across the rest of the planet vs here in Murrica: failing US policies everywhere else, kitties and bunnies here.

    It has been obvious to me for years that we are fed cr*p. You must go forth and gather your news from sources outside the US if you want to be truly informed. Period. End of story.



  7. #7 SLC
    April 5, 2007

    All is not completely lost. The following link is to a global warming story that made the front page of todays’ Washington Post.

  8. #8 mark
    April 6, 2007

    In fairness to the American news media, many did cover the story about how the last prediction of lots of hurricanes hitting the US did not prove true.

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