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Monday
May102010

1,500 Lives = One New York Times Article

From a 2005 study on “The Politics of Humanitarian Aid: U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, 1964-1995,” published in The Journal of Politics.  The study looks at how political the decision to grant assistance is, in addition to how politics influences “how much” aid is ultimately given.  But as we know, the media always has a vote.

 

“A striking finding, however, centers on the powerful impact of a disaster’s media salience, with one New York Times article being worth more disaster aid dollars than 1,500 fatalities.”

 

In other words, a humanitarian emergency which involves greater loss of life and significantly more human suffering may get the short end of the stick if it lacks advocates who can garner media coverage or journalists willing to go to the center of the storm.  I guess this is why the U.S. ignores the Congo. 

 

Reporters don’t really like traveling the middle of Africa where conditions suck and where you can get a mosquito bite, despite the fact that millions have died there in the bloodiest intrastate conflict this century and that alone should make it worthy of substantial coverage.  Journalists are much happier reporting on places like Palestine, where they can do a story in the morning and grab a falafel and hit the clubs in Tel Aviv at night, or as they did in the nineties, spending their time in Sarajevo, a short airplane ride to the rest of Europe.  So they go there instead. 



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