July 31, 2008

Another Earthquake Hits Southern California, Another Chance for Cable News Networks to Lose Their Minds

Maybe I'm jaded because I've just been through my second California earthquake in less than two years, but all I can think about is how the people who run the cable news networks once again proved what asses they are.

This time I knew right away that we were having an earthquake. My vertical blinds starting swaying violently, and it could not have been the wind, since my doors and windows were closed. I kneeled in the nearest doorway. That's probably the closest I'll get to the Catholic praying position (or any other praying position, for that matter). The earthquake was over in about 20 seconds, although my high-rise building kept swaying and creaking for about 15 seconds more. I'm told it's designed to do that.

I immediately got on the U.S. Geological Survey's website, and learned that the quake was centered in Chino Hills, not too far from me, and measured 5.4 on the Richter scale (initial estimates were at 5.6), which is considered moderate. Then I made the mistake of turning on the cable news networks to find out if there was any damage. There were no reports of damage or injuries, but that didn't stop the cable news networks from losing their minds, as usual.

The coverage of the quake was non-stop, even though (1) there were no reports of damage or injuries, and (2) there was other big news that day. In particular, Republican U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska had been indicted for corruption. The indictment of a U.S. Senator is a very big deal. We only have a hundred Senators. But the cable news networks could not cut away from their crucial earthquake coverage, which included aerial shots of an airport that the announcers could not even identify (it turned out to be Burbank), more aerial shots of kids outside of a school (even though it was mid-day and they could have been at recess), and interviews with inarticulate high school students about having to evacuate their building. Actually, the students were downright geniuses compared to the on-air cable newsreaders, who were babbling incoherently and speculating wildly.

Of course, the earthquake was newsworthy given the giant population center involved, but once again, the people in charge of the cable news networks proved that they have no sense of perspective. On the Internet, I could choose from stories about the earthquake, stories about Ted Stevens' indictment, business, foreign and other stories that were taking place at the time. One such story was that Japan had had a much larger earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, just a few days earlier. How much coverage did that quake merit on cable news? Or how about that Alaska had had an earthquake measuring 5.0 just the day before the California quake? How much did you hear about that quake on the cable news networks? Wouldn't it have been useful for us to know about the Alaska earthquake?

Is there anyone left who tunes into the cable news networks for real news?

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At 11:55 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

The only time I ever watched cable news was during the early days of the war in Iraq. They thrive on sensationalism. I guess the indictment of Sen. Stevens wasn't sensational enough. It takes something closer to home perhaps. Of course a loss of life or at least some destroyed buildings would have added a little excitement.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

Barbara, sensationalism for sure, but don't be fooled into thinking that we're getting any real news coverage of Iraq by the cable news networks. Recent statistics showed that the amount of coverage was only a couple of minutes per WEEK. How often have you seen actual combat in Iraq on cable news? How about dead or wounded American soldiers, or Iraqi fighters, or civililans? Compare that to countless hours of combat footage from Vietnam or WWII.

Actually, that's not the cable networks losing their minds, it's them losing their souls and getting into bed with the Bush Administration.

At 1:15 PM, Blogger anOCgirl said...

let me guess. all the news networks were talking about how the BIG ONE is next? what this earthquake means in regards to the BIG ONE? how powerful the BIG ONE will be? oh yes, i remember this all too well.

my experience was the opposite for this earthquake. the server had been down at work and i had no internet. so my BF called me to tell me that there was an EQ in CA. i thought he was kidding. turns out, he wasn't and i had to call my family right away to make sure everyone was ok.

it was weird to feel out of the loop when i'm used to information saturation.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

OCGirl - if only the cable news networks had presented some facts indicating that the Big One was coming, or that this moderate one had some relation to a future big one. No, they didn't even approach something along those lines.


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