Sensationalism, defined on dictionary.com as “subject matter, language, or style producing or designed to produce startling or thrilling impressions or to excite and please vulgar taste.”
Journalists, of course, are accused of sensationalizing stories all the time. And in many cases such accusations are completely justified, particularly when it comes to the 24-hour news networks (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc.) that continue to captivate television viewers, regardless of the veracity of their reporting. Then again, we journalists are accused of a lot of things (bias, for one, immediately springs to mind), and it’s simply part of the job. Yet every once in a while a story, calamity or other tragic event comes around that deserves the coverage – and an honest recounting of the facts – it receives.
Hurricane Sandy, for obvious reasons, is one of those tragic events; one that has unfolded before our unbelieving eyes as New Jersey, New York, and a handful of other states continue to pick up the pieces left behind one of the most damaging storms to ever make impact on the east coast.
The question is ... have television networks and other news outlets sensationalized their accounts of Sandy’s impact in an effort to boost ratings? Of course they have, that’s how they do business. Did Sandy deserve the coverage it received – and continues to receive – in the hours and days after making landfall? Of course it did. Yet there’s a proverbial line, here, that needs to be drawn ... actually there are two. Using this unprecedented disaster for political gain, something that is both appalling and condemnable; and accusing our country’s emergency personnel – even here in Chenango County – of sensationalizing preliminary reports on the potential for damage this storm posed, in and of itself a cowardly, uncalled-for act of ignorance and stupidity.
Me? I say it’s better to be safe than sorry. Or, as stated to me no less than a dozen times by our local emergency management: prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Face it, people, when it comes to Hurricane Sandy – at least here in Chenango County – we got lucky; we dodged the proverbial bullet; and we should be extremely thankful, because things could have ended up a hell of a lot worse. And our local emergency and law enforcement agencies should be commended for their efforts in the days leading up to this storm, not disparaged for issuing a warning that could have saved lives in the unfortunate event that Monday night’s storm hit harder than it did.
Just go ask folks in Atlantic City or the Big Apple if you disagree.
Needless to say, I have a lot of respect for our local firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel, not to mention those individuals who willingly volunteer to put their lives on the line when called upon. They are – and this can not be argued – the true heroes of our community. And yet we still have a small population of people out there who continue to say things like, “they’re blowing things out of proportion” or “don’t worry about it, we’ve seen big storms before.”
Again, tell that to the millions of people that were hit dead-on by Hurricane Sandy; tell that to the families who have lost loved ones thanks to this unique and almost unheard-of storm.
Last night, I returned home to find a “flood,” of sorts, of my own in the kitchen. A hot water line had burst beneath the sink and the vinyl floor was completely submerged. Honestly, it took an hour or so of clean-up to get things back to normal. Were I to blow that unfortunate occurrence out of proportion; put it on today’s front page, crying, “How could such a thing happen to me when I have to get up and go to work in the morning?” well ... that would be sensationalism.
Instead, my thoughts and prayers are with those who are truly suffering across the eastern part of our country. With that, my thanks and gratitude go out to those who protect us here in Chenango County. To offer anything less is ... I simply can’t think of a term that describes such selfish, crude and thoughtless behavior.
Peace be with those who continue to struggle and God bless.
Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian