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Global Crisis Reporting
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Global Crisis Reporting
Media Report
What happens in Haiti stays in Haiti: The Australian Broadcasting
Corporation’s reporting of Hurricane Sandy
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In October of 2012 the traditional mainstream news media in Australia was inundated with
reports of Hurricane Sandy and its devastating impact on American cities namely New York
and New Jersey. Australians were reminded of Mother Nature’s extreme power, wrath and
destruction with pictures, videos and stories of suburban streets turned into rivers,
demolished family homes, piles of cars destroyed by the waves and boats on train tracks.
While Australian news outlets succeeded in portraying the misfortunes of Americans, there
was scant attention towards other nations affected by Hurricane Sandy and the plight of
those populations. Mentions of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath on many Caribbean nations
were rare, almost non-existent, during the initial reports of the disaster. I ask the question,
what makes one crisis more newsworthy than another? This report centres on the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (herein referred to as the ABC) online news reports,
both print and video, of Hurricane Sandy. I refer to Hurricane Sandy’s reported effects on
American cities as compared to the Caribbean nation of Haiti, and attempt to provide an
answer for the disparity in exposure as well as to explore what a lack of media attention can
mean for underdeveloped nations.
Background:代写Global Crisis Reporting
Scientific facts and figures are necessary to gaining a better understanding of both
Hurricane Sandy as a natural disaster, its power, and the scale of ruin it left in both Haiti and
America in its wake.
Hurricane Sandy was the 18 th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed
over the south western Caribbean Sea on October 22 nd . At its initial stages, Hurricane Sandy
was over 15 kilometers high and producing approximately 50 milimeters of rainfall per hour
(Gutro, 2012). Even at its initial stages, it was considered to be an extremely large hurricane
with gale force winds of up to 1,612 kilometers per hour (Blake, et al., 2013).
On October 26 th , Hurricane Sandy passed over the Caribbean nations at its largest size
drenching the island nations with approximately 50 centimeters of rain within a 24 hour
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period (Blake, et al., 2013) (WSJ, 2012). The extreme weather and flooding caused 71
deaths; 54 of which were within the nation of Haiti alone (WSJ, 2012). The wide spread
damage meant that millions of Haitians were homeless, displaced and without access to
food or clean water. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy also saw outbreaks in cholera among
the locals; some cases resulting in further deaths (WSJ, 2012) (Ferreira, 2012). The Haitian
Hurricane Sandy death toll and damage to property and infrastructure were further
accentuated by the fact that the nation was still recovering from the 2010 earthquake which
claimed more than 200,000 lives and Hurricane Isaac which hit the nation in August 2012.
Spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in
Haiti, France Hurtubise described the plight of Haitians; “the same families who had their
home destroyed two months ago [are] back under water.” (Ferreira, 2012).
Hurricane Sandy then made its way to the North American mainland. On October 29 th
Hurricane Sandy made landfall battering the East Coast cities of New York and New Jersey.
Both cities experienced heavy rain, strong winds and record storm surges which were
further enhanced by the full moon and the cold weather at the time (Service, 2012) (Otis,
2013). Hurricane Sandy’s winds extended over 280 kilometers from the eye of the storm
and sent surges of over four meters high flooding roads, subway systems, building basement
levels and tunnels. Despite the accompanying rain, loose electrical wires caught fire
destroying homes and property. The strong winds helped spread the hot embers and widen
the scope of destruction (Otis, 2013). Hurricane Sandy claimed 125 lives in the American
cities with the majority of the death toll in New York and New Jersey (AP, 2012). Many
others were affected by areas of severe flooding, the destruction of property, loss of
electricity and access to clean water; the city provided semi-permanent housing, emergency
food and water, and clothes to at least 3,000 of its people. The United States Federal
Government had allocated $60 billion USD in storm recovery aid (Otis, 2013). Within a year
of Hurricane Sandy, the Federal Government had provided more than $1.4 billion USD in
Individual Assistance for survivours, $2.4 billion USD in low-interest disaster loans, $7.9
billion in National Flood Insurance Program payments and $3.2 billion USD towards funding
emergency work, and the repair and replacement of infrastructure (FEMA, 2013).
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The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Hurricane Sandy:
The ABC is Australia’s public broadcasting network providing both traditional (i.e. television
and radio) and contemporary (i.e. online) media services. The network was one of many
reporting on Hurricane Sandy during October 2012 with several follow up stories during
November. The archived publications and news footage served as an entry point to the
ABC’s approach towards Hurricane Sandy. The news stories examined included both print
and video reports centered on Hurricane Sandy. They also fell within the ten day period of
October 26 th to November 4 th ; this period was selected based on Hurricane Sandy’s first
mention until one week following landfall in America. The findings are as follows:
Date Number of reports regarding
Number of reports regarding
H代写Global Crisis Reporting
04/11/2012  2  0
Total 57 1 1
Figure 1
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The graph below serves to further illustrate the disproportionate numbers of ABC news
reports between the two nations.
As the graph above shows, the ABC’s reporting of Hurricane Sandy was overtly preferential
towards its effects on Americans than on Haitians. Throughout the sample period of 10
days, Haiti garnered a single mention on October 26 th with an article titled “Hurricane Sandy
leaves 21 dead in Caribbean 1 ”; there were no follow up reports on the condition of the
Caribbean nations or its population despite the death toll increasing during the next few
days. Yet, as indicated by the sudden spike, not only was the American plight mentioned in
nine separate reports on the day of landfall but October 30 th saw the publications of 20
follow up reports with numbers gradually decreasing during the subsequent five day period.
Of the 57 articles published focusing on America, one mentioned Hurricane Sandy in passing
in reference to its impact on the (then) upcoming US elections, seven were reports related
1 Article can be found at
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26-Oct 27-Oct 28-Oct 29-Oct 30-Oct 31-Oct 1-Nov 2-Nov 3-Nov 4-Nov
Hurricane Sandy reports on America vs Haiti
America Haiti
Figure 2
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to the US economy, and one was titled “Sandy’s Aftermath: What happened to NYC’s rats? 2 ”
published on November 1 st . It is disconcerting that New York City’s rats appear to hold more
prominence to the ABC news media than the humanitarian crisis of an underdeveloped
nation suffering its third natural disaster in two years.
Two theories will be employed to explain the above statistics; Galtung and Ruge’s model of
news values and the CARMA report Western Media Coverage of Humanitarian Disasters.
Galtung and Ruge’s 1973 model of news values evaluate the potential – or newsworthiness
– of news stories; in essence it serves as a guideline to determine how “events become
news” (Harcup & O'Neill, 2001). According to this model the disproportionate attention
towards the American cities compared to Haiti can be justified from a journalistic angle.
Firstly, Hurricane Sandy’s effects on New York and New Jersey hold relevance and is
‘meaningful’ (Harcup & O'Neill, 2001) to Australian audiences. At the crux, this means that
stories that are considered culturally similar to the target audience are more likely to be
considered newsworthy. These stories fit into the target audience’s frame of reference; at a
glance Australia and America are both English speaking Western nations with strong political
and cultural ties; while the media does constitute the world’s publicness, it would seem that
it is fractured by cultural differences (Silverstone, 2007). At the risk of appearing macabre,
from a purely news media perspective, the Haitian devastation may have held more
prominence in the ABC’s Hurricane Sandy coverage had it been considered relevant by other
means – such as Australian citizens among the dead or injured in Haiti.
Hurricane Sandy was also an unexpected phenomenon – not in the sense of its appearance
– rather its devastating effects on a nation widely regarded as a superpower. This leads to
another criterion of the model of news values; the lack of attention towards Haiti can be
explained by America being an ‘elite’ nation. Gatlung and Ruge explain that “famine,
drought, and national disasters are more likely to draw attention if they are happening in
2 Article can be found at
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First World countries than if they are happening in developing countries.” (Harcup & O'Neill,
2001) Also, it is assumed that the actions and positions of elite nations are more
consequential than those of non-elite nations (Harcup & O'Neill, 2001).
Cottle (2008) proposes another explanation for the lack of coverage on Haiti. He refers to a
media analysis by CARMA titled Western Media Coverage of Humanitarian Disasters. The
report compares the press coverage of six (then) recent major natural disasters. The findings
state that although the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, America, had the
lowest death toll (as compared to the other five disasters studied) and had one of the
lowest population displacement figures, it still received the highest rate of media coverage
accounting for 50% of the study sample (Cottle, 2008) (Franks, 2006). By comparison,
Hurricane Stanley which made landfall on Guatemala within a few weeks of Hurricane
Katrina had received little media attention despite causing an equal death toll as Hurricane
Katrina. Franks (2006) states that by the end of January 2006 Hurricane Katrina had gotten
3,105 references in the British news media while Hurricane Stanley received 34 (Franks,
2006). Cottle (2008) asserts that the extent of Hurricane Stanley’s media exposure was
limited to only initial news reports then “quickly disappear[ed] from news attention.”
(Cottle, 2008). The CARMA study suggests that “there appears to be no link between the
scale of a disaster and media interest in the story.” (Cottle, 2008) (Franks, 2006). The report
also argues that “economics is a better guide to press interest than human suffering”
(Cottle, 2008) (Franks, 2006). This is demonstrated by the fact that the CARMA report found
17 per cent of articles relating to Hurricane Katrina focussed on the economic impact of the
disaster. The CARMA findings as quoted above, although in reference to Hurricane Katrina
and Hurricane Stanley parallels our case study of Hurricane Sandy’s effects on America and
Haiti and explains the disparity in coverage between the two nations.
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The ABC news data shows the disproportionate media attention between two nations facing
very similar disasters at nearly the same time. With the main point of difference being the
development of each nation, it is significant to ask what the lack of media attention means
to Haiti as an underdeveloped nation. As mentioned earlier, only a few months prior to
Hurricane Sandy, Haiti had been struck by Hurricane Isaac. And prior to that the Caribbean
island nation had experienced a devastating earthquake. Haiti has a GDP of $1,300 USD
ranking 210 (out of a total of 229 nations) internationally while America ranks considerably
higher at 13 with a GDP of $52,800 USD (CIA, 2013). The large disparity between the two
nations’ economies shows how much more financial and aid assistance Haiti requires as
compared to the much richer America. This is evidenced by the enormous budget afforded
by the American Government to help its people and rebuild and repair the city’s
infrastructure. This is not to in any way downgrade the crisis Americans faced in October
2012; Hurricane Sandy – as I have mentioned – was an enormous crisis to both nations
affected. I do however wish to emphasise the responsibility of the ABC to have covered
more of the Haitian disaster. I acknowledge that public awareness alone will not necessarily
help a cause but visibility is the first step; “mediated appearance constitutes our
worldliness, our capacity to see the world” (Silverstone, 2007). Theoretically higher public
exposure for Haiti would result in greater public awareness which in turn should – ideally –
translate to international aid assistance; something the underdeveloped nation desperately
needs. Ulrich Beck states that the media plays a pivotal role in maintaining public knowledge
and the pressure for public action (Lester & Cottle, 2009). As such, from both a moral and an
ethical standpoint, Haiti undoubtedly deserves the opportunity to present itself and its
unfortunate circumstances on the global public stage. The lack of media attention is
inadvertently excluding Haiti from the public sphere. Based on the ABC news reports
sampled, it would appear that while Hurricane Sandy may have passed through the
Caribbean nations that is not of importance and that the magnitude of the destruction was
laid solely on the American cities and that our eyes should not stray from that.
Of course another central reason; which reflects again on the criterion of relevance
mentioned very briefly above; is America’s international status as a superpower and both
the political and cultural ties between it and Australia. Harcup and O’Neill (2001) suggest
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that news regarding ‘elite’ nations are of particular importance in the public sphere as their
position and conditions are consequential to other nations. This theory is evident again in
the CARMA report which found a significant proportion of Hurricane Katrina news centred
on economic matters rather than humanitarian issues (Franks, 2006). Similarly, the ABC
news findings show that seven out of the total 57 reports focussed on Hurricane Sandy in
America were regarding the US economy; this represents 12 per cent of the sample data.
This is a reflection on the economic relations between America and Australia and therefore
is of great significance to Australian audiences; it also fits the criterion of proximity as
changes to the American economy may impact our own.
It appears the simple answer to the initial question of ‘what makes one crisis more
newsworthy than another?’ is its relevance to the target audience and their expectations of
the news. However, this does make issues of journalistic and public morality and ethics
problematic. For most of us the world and its population appear only in the media; the
media serves as a bridge between the private and public worlds (Silverstone, 2007)
therefore is burdened with a moral obligation to report on global crisis fairly regardless of
political or cultural bias. In an increasingly globalised and shared world, a public sphere
divided by cultural differences not only further splits people already separated by
geographic locations but also hinders public awareness on crisis and the opportunity to help
those in need. “The media brings immediacy” (Silverstone, 2007) and should be rightfully
harnessed to disseminate knowledge and pressure public action.
The CARMA report concludes that “Western self-interest is the pre-condition for significant
coverage of a humanitarian crisis.” (Franks, 2006). Australian economic and cultural
interests with America ensured a greater news coverage yet it was at the cost of moral and
ethical journalistic values. In this instance, Australia’s economic self-interest rests with
reports of a crisis in America not Haiti but is that enough reason to overlook a nation
desperate for assistance?
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ABC, 2012. Sandy's aftermath: What happened to NYC's rats?. [Online]
Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-01/sandy-raises-fears-of-ratpocalypse/4345586
[Accessed 03 04 2014].
AP, 2012. Superstorm Sandy Deaths, Damage and Magnitude: What we know one month later.
Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/29/superstorm-hurricane-sandy-deaths-
[Accessed 01 04 2014].
Bell, M., 1998. The Journalism of Attachment. In: Media Ethics. New York: Routledge, pp. 15-22.
Blake, E. et al., 2013. National Hurricane Centre. [Online]
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[Accessed 04 04 2014].
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Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-
[Accessed 04 04 2014].
Cottle, S., 2008. (Un)natural Disasters: The Calculus of Death and the Ritualization of Catastrophe. In:
Global Crisis Reportiing: Journalism in the Global Age. Maidenhead: Open University Press, pp. 43-
FEMA, 2013. Hurricane Sandy: Timeline. [Online]
Available at: http://www.fema.gov/hurricane-sandy-timeline
[Accessed 04 04 2014].
Ferreira, S., 2012. In Haiti, Hurricane Sandy Leaves Behind Death and Devastationo. [Online]
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[Accessed 04 04 2014].
Franks, S., 2006. The CARMA Report: Western Media Coverage of Humanitarian Disasters. Political
Quarterly, 77(2), pp. 281-284.
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Gutro, R., 2012. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration. [Online]
Available at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2012/h2012_Sandy.html#1
[Accessed 01 04 2014].
Lester, L. & Cottle, S., 2009. Visualising Climate Change: Television news and ecological citizenship.
International Journal of Communication, Volume 3, pp. 920-936.
Otis, A., 2013. Hurricane Sandy, one year later: Tracing the superstorm's path from inception to
destruction. [Online]
Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/hurricane-sandy/sandy-1-year-storm-winds-
[Accessed 01 04 2014].
Service, N. W., 2012. National Weather Service. [Online]
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Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 25-55.
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Available at:
[Accessed 04 04 2014].
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