We’re not even through Week 1 of the disaster in Japan yet and the signs of news fatigue are already setting in. In less than seven days, the American media “conversation” has shifted from the massive humanitarian disaster in Japan to concerns over a nuclear meltdown, to concerns over how we could be affected by a nuclear meltdown, to whether nuclear energy is safe and, finally, to borderline victim-blaming.
I’m among the biggest proponents of Twitter and rapid-fire, scatter-shot news delivery, but the speed of topic-change in this case particularly is insane.
A well-rounded view of the crisis is necessary, yes, but look: No one on the U.S. west coast is going to be affected by radiation, so we can drop that after we’ve reported it. There’s no way to predict when an earthquake will strike, so let’s stop doomsdaying over “what if it happens here?”
This crap is distracting people from the fact that Japan is facing the greatest humanitarian disaster in its modern history, one that it will probably be facing for years to come.
It’s difficult for people to stay on one subject for an extended period of time (Katrina, Haiti, etc.), but that’s exactly what the mainstream media should exist for: to draw people’s eyeballs toward the things that deserve drawing eyeballs to.
This may be the web’s time to shine, though. While TV is somewhat beholden to constant freshness, the web is able to devote itself to tribes of people who are intensely focused on a single subject. This is an area where a big network could take advantage of a citizen journalist who is intensely focused on a topic — build that person a web page (a WordPress blog, say) pay them to run it and use it as a mining source for front-page or on-air coverage.
We’ll see what happens. If I’m a betting man, though, I’m looking at the impending U.S. budget fight and all its Right vs. Left fodder, and thinking that it’s about to overshadow everything else.