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For Haiti Earthquake Coverage, Would Less Have Been More?

In the latest Global Pulse Episode, host Erin Coker looks at media coverage of the Haiti earthquake. Watch the episode and share your thoughts below!

 

Does the excessive coverage of Haiti’s earthquake – not to mention the questionable journalistic and medical ethics involved when doctor/reporters can’t decide whether to operate or do interviews — give the viewer a better understanding of the disaster? Or is it little more than the casting of journalists as action heroes? 

The New Republic’s Chief Editor, Noam Scheiber, in his recent article taking the news establishment to task, wrote that “in Haiti the dozens of redundant dispatches are stressing an already perilously fragile situation.”

In a follow-up interview with Global Pulse featured in this week’s episode, Scheiber says, “More information is great. But if an airport is being taxed with a volume way above its normal capacity and as a result aid workers, doctors and nurses can’t get in, then I think we have gotten to the point where one good—information—is trumping another good—relief workers…to the detriment of the people we are trying to help.”

The solution, Scheiber thinks, is a so-called “disaster pool.” Comprising a limited number of reporters in country, the disaster pool would share information with news outlets in a similar manner that White House correspondents share “pool reports” with the dozens of journalists unable to attend a briefing. You can download an MP3 of the complete Scheiber interview here.

This might preclude scenes like those we used in this episode, of Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric aiding wounded children, but it may give networks more time for in-depth stories that discuss Haiti’s tumultuous history, the roots of its abject poverty and what day-to-day life was like for the average Haitian pre-earthquake.


Journalist Marc Cooper, characterizing the coverage as “myopic” and “disaster porn”, on his blog, wrote, “It's a totally legit news story for CNN or anyone else [to] zoom in on this or that dramatic and heart-rending rescue of one or another victim trapped in rubble. But every one of those stories is also a stark and rather sickening reminder of how the daily pre-earthquake deaths, starvation and deprivation were considered SO non-newsworthy.”

This reminds me of my own trip to Haiti in the fall of 2008, as part of a disaster response team after a series of hurricanes killed hundreds of people and badly damaged the city of Gonaïves. While the storms made headlines, the fallout apparently wasn’t on a large enough scale to warrant widespread news coverage. 

Looking back, what I remember most is the darkness. There is little electricity in Haiti, and the nighttime’s dim storefronts and weak candlelight gave the impression of a city that was a relic of another age.

Will Port-au-Prince once again become a forgotten city? As this article from the Columbia Journalism Review reminds me, there was once, and is likely to be again, only one full-time American journalist in Haiti.

 

 
 

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Stalled START: A New Arms Race? Or Not.

In this week's episode of Global Pulse, host Erin Coker asks if the U.S. and Russia could be entering a new arms race. Watch the episode and share your thoughts below!

 

As a young child in the mid-1980s, thoughts of total nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Russians would occasionally prevent me from sleeping. On one family holiday to Maine, I actually wondered if we were far enough away from major cities to be safe from an atomic blast.

 

Looking back on the decade it is easy to see why a little kid would be so uneasy. The threat of nuclear war was ingrained in popular culture, lurking in everything from movies to songs. In 1982, Time Magazine devoted nearly 3,500 words to an article entitled, "thinking the unthinkable."

 

Today such fears seem nearly as dated as the all-out nuclear panic that resulted in this 1950s public service announcement that acknowledged the imminent threat of the bomb, while advocating questionable albeit, hilarious, blast survival techniques. Picnic blankets and newspapers, anyone?

 

However, with negotiations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) stalling in recent months, the global media have taken notice. As Ariel Cohen points out in a New York Times editorial, the failure to agree on a new treaty by the December 5 deadline, has left the two countries in "uncharted waters."

 

Or has it?

 

Calling Cohen's argument "alarmist and misleading," William D. Hartung argues that despite the delay in sorting out the new START agreement, Russia and the U.S. are still “abiding by the basic principles of the agreement”  as they craft a new one. 

 

The director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, Hartung notes that even if both sides chose to ignore START's provisions, "it is absurd to suggest that either side could gain a strategic advantage in the few weeks (or in the absolute worst case, months) it will take to hammer out a new treaty."

 

Hartung is also quick to dismiss what he terms the "unsupportable notion that there is a resurgent Russian bear out there, and that it cannot be trusted and should not be cooperated with in any substantial way." Such thinking, according to Cohen, is obsolete—the detritus of the Cold War—and is no longer relative today.

 

So are the media overreacting, then? Is it only a matter of time before the U.S. and Russia iron out the details of the new START, or is Hartung being cavalier about the whole thing? In today's world, how crucial is U.S.-Russia arms control to global security?

 

 

 

 
 

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Taking to the Airwaves

Today, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko continues to press his government's case that the blame for this month's gas dispute with Russia's Gazprom lies firmly beyond Ukraine's borders. Yushchenko accuses Russia of trying to foster a "sense of insecurity" in the EU regarding Ukraine's gas transport industry, and that Russia has previously employed similar tactics against fellow former Soviet republics Belarus and Moldova. The interview can be seen here and the transcript read here.

 

Meanwhile, Gazprom announced today a deal with Kuwaiti firm Noor Financial Investment to form a joint venture for gas and oil production in Russia and Kuwait. In their news release, the AP reports that the move comes in the wake of a 70% drop in Gazprom's share price over the past year.

 

 
 

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Russia and Ukraine: Pipeline Politics

Russia and Ukraine are once again fighting over gas pipelines to Europe. Is this dispute based on Russia exerting its political power over Eastern Europe, or just Ukraine not wanting to pay its bills?

SOURCES: BBC, U.K; ABC News, U.S; FOX News, U.S; TV5, France; Deutsche Welle, Germany; RT, Russia; Channel 5 News, Ukraine; Al Jazeera English, Qatar.

 

- Global Pulse -

 

 

 
 

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Energy Wars

This week, Global Pulse will examine this month's dispute between Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine, which led to a cutting of gas supplies to much of eastern Europe in the heart of winter. In an interview with Newsweek, Ukraine's deputy Prime Minister Hryhoriy Nemyria predicts that "Gazprom is killing the goose that brings Russia golden eggs," and that freezing  European residents will feel little goodwill towards the company and its hardball negotiation tactics. 

 

Bloomberg meanwhile reports that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blames none other than outgoing US President George Bush for escalating the current gas crisis. In his view, Bush administration plans to extend NATO membership to Ukraine, along with a proposed new missile defense shield in eastern Europe, has led to a worsening of Russia's relations with its western neighbors.

 

Will the arrival of the Obama administration help to stimulate greater cooperation in the region? And when can we expect President Obama to grant an interview, like he did with Al-Arabiya this week, with Russia Today or another influential local outlet?

 
 

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