Today we heard the terrible news of the earthquake in Christchurch in New Zealand. Awful stuff. I had been listening to the news on the radio and later turned on the telly to get an update. I didn’t have to look far to find some news as every channel was running whatever they could get. That is something I hate about the coverage of a natural disaster. It is everywhere on every channel and you can’t get away from it. I know that it is important to get out information and that in this day and age people expect to know everything RIGHT NOW! The problem with this is that you never get to turn off. I think that this kind of thing began in Australia with Stuart Diver and his rescue from a landslide at Thredbo in 1997. We all watched with bated breath as he was slowly extricated from a collapsed ski lodge. We didn’t know that this sort of coverage would become a tool used during every disaster from then on.
The Black Saturday fires and aftermath here in Victoria in 2009 was on TV for weeks as was the flooding in Queensland recently. The problem with this is that the more you are told of how terrible it is the more it gets in your head. I choose to turn it off but it doesn’t take much viewing for kids to be affected. During the fires in 2009 we evacuated as it was a little too close for comfort. I kept the TV off as the kids were already worried enough as they were aware of how close it was and every time they saw a TV they were told to be even more worried. We have been through a time of fires in this area years ago, before rolling coverage and mobile phones. Then the attitude was less of panic and more of ‘how can we sort this out?’ Now any perilous situation is constantly reinforced with the tragedies and worst case scenarios of the day updated hourly.
I really noticed how TV coverage affected the kids during the QLD floods when we were caught in a huge downpour one night on the way home from a friends house. There were swathes of water across the roads and branches down everywhere. I was driving throught the water slowly (as my Ford can stall at the sight of a wet tissue and I didn’t want us to have to walk home) and the kids were freaking out. Normally they would have been shrieking with laughter at floods and mud as they do when we are out in the bush in the 4WD but this time they were truly afraid. You can blame the images of cars being swept away and smashed into trees seen on TV in previous days. A few weeks later we were driving in even worse conditions and they were delighted. It was just because the TV had told them to be afraid that they had such a reaction at the time.
If these things were only aired on one channel it would be easier to avoid but every channel runs constantly, vying for the most graphic footage. When the vision of an injured and unconcious (I hope) child being pulled from under fallen blocks was aired without warning today I wasn’t the only one upset by it. The desk announcer was clearly affected too. How many small kids were at home and seeing this unexpected and distressing sight? Tonight I will be keeping the TV off and keeping the little lives in my house free of the fear of an earthquake that they can do nothing about and just be thankful that it is not our town on the TV. This time.