Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and Media Amnesia

03 Feb



By Courtney Herring, Guest Contributor
Since I am a media studies scholar, I have taken a great interest in the media depictions of minorities during times of crises. When the disaster in Haiti hit, not only was I concerned about the physical wellbeing of those suffering, I was also preoccupied with how the media (specifically, the news) would depict Haitians during this time of chaos and need. I was secretly crossing my fingers that the news media would not make the same, ignorant mistakes that it did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.         



If you can remember, the disaster in New Orleans nearly 5 years ago was not only a natural disaster – it was a media disaster, as well. From images of African Americans “looting” grocery stores to reports of militia threatening the lives of victims and survivors instead of protecting them, the news reports were almost too horrible for me to bear. Let’s not forget the vitriol commentary from political pundits referring to those in New Orleans as refugees and declaring the disaster apart of God’s “will” to cleanse the city of “evil” (ie: African Americans). Frankly, I was disgusted by what I saw and heard each day on all news networks.        



When the coverage of the earthquake in Haiti began, I was skeptical of what I was about to see and hear, but thankfully, the coverage (for the most part) humanized those suffering. I was pleased at the call for help and supplies and investigative reporting my some of our nation’s most respected journalists. Call it wishful thinking, but I wanted to believe that the American media had learned its lesson. For the most part, I believe that they did. But, there were still a few moments where I had to shake my head at the Pat Robertsons and Bill O’Reillys of the world because of the claims that Haiti had made a pact with the devil and the comparisons made between the South side of Chicago and the developing nation. While the coverage has not yet ended, I am hoping that improved coverage of this disaster will not. I also hope that the media will not suffer from amnesia and forget about those suffering in Haiti during the rebuilding process like it did during the Katrina crisis. Only time will tell.


Posted by on February 3, 2010 in media


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2 responses to “Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and Media Amnesia

  1. teeth whitening

    February 4, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I never thought I will agree with this opinion, but you know I agree partially now

    • Erika Pryor

      February 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

      Given her extensive research on the representation of African Americans in news during the Hurricane Katrina coverage, Courtney has great insight into the topic. I appreciate her perspective and opinion as well.


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