Hey! Remember Puerto Rico?
There was a big hurricane back in September 2017 that knocked out the power to the whole island leaving a bunch of U.S. citizens in the literal dark and without safe drinking water. President Donald Trump even went there to throw some paper towels. It was a whole thing.
Ring a bell?
This week, we learned that the government’s estimate of 64 hurricane-related deaths was off by, oh, 4,600 or so. Unfortunately, you might not have heard about it.
You might be thinking, “Wait, how? I keep up with the news. How did I miss this story?”
The answer: Most cable news outlets barely covered it. For the most part, the story was overshadowed by coverage of ABC’s decision to cancel “Roseanne” following a racist Twitter post by the show’s star.
Media Matters, a liberal-leaning media watchdog group, looked at how the three major cable news outlets — Fox News, CNN, MSNBC — covered the new report on Puerto Rico compared to Roseanne Barr’s tweet and subsequent firing.
Using data from May 29 and the morning of May 30, Media Matters found that Roseanne’s story got more than 20 times as much coverage as the Puerto Rico report.
Here’s another way to look at that data. Clearly, we’re not seeing the full picture.
We cannot forget the people of Puerto Rico. The tragedy was horrible, and for many, it’s not over. There are still ways we can and should help.
Organizations like All Hands and Hearts, Direct Relief, Americares, Hispanic Federation, and Habitat for Humanity are still on the ground helping people rebuild their lives. We owe it to our fellow Americans to help, to never forget the tragedy that hit them, and to no longer let the rapid-fire pace of the news cycle bump these types of stories from the front of our minds.
Our news media owes it to us to give as much attention to the thousands of lost American lives as it gives to whatever the daily bit of Hollywood drama happens to be. (Admittedly, we wrote about the Roseanne drama earlier this week, as well.)
I don’t know if there’s something we, as a whole, could have done differently to help the people of Puerto Rico in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
But I do know that it’s on us to honor those lost as the result of the storm and apply whatever lessons are to be taken from this horrific event to reduce the damage of future disasters.