The President Doesn’t Understand Hurricane Journalism

The President Doesn’t Understand Hurricane Journalism September 13, 2018

This is difficult to write about and I have no doubt at all that I’m not the only person struggling with objectivity right now. I am going to do my best to state the facts dispassionately and report on this on its face without letting my intense anger color the reporting of the facts in this situation and then I’ll mark when I begin to share my opinions. I am Puerto Rican. I have family in Puerto Rico. I have friends in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria destroyed communities and shattered families. I have friends who fled Puerto Rico after the hurricane. What the President said in tweets this morning is horrifying to many of us. Many reporters will provide better coverage of this than I will or can, but if you don’t read their articles and do read mine I want you to understand hurricane reporting so that you know better than the president seems too.

The flag of Puerto. It still waves high and mighty even after a hurricane and a President who doesn't care about it or the people it represents.
The flag of Puerto. It still waves high and mighty even after a hurricane and a President who doesn’t care about it or the people it represents.

The context of the hurricane tweets:

To people who don’t know about how hurricane deaths are reported and attributed this sort of thought process can make a bit of sense. That being said, this is not an accurate statement. In the wake of the hurricanes, deaths are caused by a variety of things, including flooding and carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s directly during and immediately after the hurricane and in lots of places in the United States hurricane recovery efforts are swift, coordinated, and usually effective. What happened in Puerto Rico is more complex than that. In Puerto Rico, Maria damaged and destroyed a significant amount of the infrastructure of the communities it harmed and that is one factor that contributed to the thousands of deaths that independent analyses attribute to Maria especially since the recovery effort in Puerto Rico just wasn’t as effective as the recovery efforts in areas on the mainland hit by Maria and Harvey. Areas that were especially affected by the hurricane were hospitals and other healthcare providers which is likely where many of the deaths came from and also evidently healthcare product manufacturing being damaged in Puerto Rico had a ripple effect on the rest of the country.

For independent analyses of the damage caused by Maria click here and here. And no, “the Democrats” had nothing to do with independent studies commissioned by the Puerto-Rican government that examined mortality rates in the wake of Maria and attempted to examine which deaths were attributable to the damage caused by the hurricane. Independent studies are not partisan and the administration of Puerto-Rican governor Ricardo Russello is not aligned with the Democratic Party (Please note the correction at the bottom of this section). Governor Ricardo Russello is a member of the New Progressive Party which is despite its name most often identified as a center-right party, not center-left like the Democrats are.

In the words of Ben Shapiro, facts don’t care about someone’s feelings and that’s true even when that someone is the president. Facts are pretty egalitarian that way.

Correction: after publishing and posting this article a commentator on Facebook made me realize that something I said here was incorrect, Ricardo Rossello is evidently considered a Democrat. As a member of the Democratic Party myself and an insider I’ve never heard this but it’s true so I’m correcting myself, Governor Rossello is as far as I can tell a Democrat. 

Opinion Time:

The President said a horrible, vile thing by ignoring independent statistical research and politicizing these deaths. And now people like me, with friends who’ve fled their lifelong homes and family who are still working to rebuild and recover what was lost are in shock and infuriated and I can’t imagine the agony these tweets must have caused people who survived the hurricane itself. And I know that CNN and NBC and MSNBC are going to cover these tweets. And they’re going to do it badly.

They’re gonna bring on Hispanic pundits who aren’t Puerto Rican. They’re gonna think that they would know what’s going on because they’re Hispanic. They likely are going to ignore Puerto Rican voices and give this moment to the wrong people. They’re going to ignore Julio Ricardo Varela, Andrea Gonzalez-Ramirez, and other journalists and voices that provided excellent coverage of post-Maria Puerto Rico. And they’re also going to ignore other Caribbean voices whose homes also suffered horrifically from Maria such as people from Guadeloupe and Dominicans. They’re going to cover this badly. And that’s bad. Puerto Ricans and Caribbeans deserve better than this.

In the wake of these tweets, any panels that are conducted should include and emphasize affected parties, not just any Spanish speakers. Every newsroom that wants to talk about these tweets should be calling Puerto Rican journalists, reporters, and politicians. If you’re in a position of power in a newsroom and you decide to have a discussion about these tweets and about the ignorance that the people of the United States constantly show to Puerto Rico you have a responsibility to highlight Puerto Rican voices and point your viewers their way. Don’t ignore that responsibility. Practice ethical and inclusive journalism and you will enlighten your viewers and readers and give them the resources to better understand this disaster and the true horribleness of what the President said today.

"There is no serious article, anywhere in the world, confirming or denying this. Only the ..."

Let’s Investigate Something Together.
"> Reading the tweet caused me to remember the idea of the role of “the ..."

The Importance Of Inclusive Politics And ..."
"> These are qualities that someone has that enables them to be a skilled reconciler. ..."

Reconcile: Secular Review Of A Christian ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment