Why aren’t we hearing more about the Philippines Typhoon?

Storm Damage

Bodies lie in the streets, survivors struggling without food and water, almost every structure demolished. It’s one of the biggest storms ever.

Per an eyewitness account in the Chicago Tribune, “There was Death Everywhere”.

Although I do not declare myself a hard-hitting news journalist, let’s take a look at what’s been reported:

  • 1,774 people confirmed dead, with estimated death tolls of up to 10,000
  • 9.7 million people affected
  • 660,000 people forced to evacuate
  • 70-80% of structures in the storm’s path demolished

This is unimaginable devastation…that I’m not hearing much about.

I learned about the massive destruction of Typhoon Haiyan on Friday morning. I only heard about it because I get CNN push notifications on my iPad. The story has been in the news, the U.S. has sent aid, and if I take to Google, the information is there. But, day-to-day, no one is talking about it.

A friend of mine knows someone with family in the Philippines. Over the weekend she asked about his family, but to her surprise and his, he didn’t know the storm had taken place.

I saw exactly one post in my Facebook feed and two Tweets.

On Monday I didn’t hear one mention on morning talk shows.

I didn’t see any T.V. interrupted news stories.

I flipped to CNN where it was the 4th story.

And it’s disturbing me.

Here in the U.S. we have faced many tragedies, and when it happens, the news is everywhere–as it should be. I realize a world story wouldn’t be aired to the same level as a local event, but what’s happening in the Philippines is massive. Can you even imagine potentially 10,000 deaths*?

By comparison, here are some of the most well known tragedies to happen on U.S. soil:

  • 9-11 – 2,996 casualties
  • Pearl Harbor – 2,466 casualties
  • Hurricane Katrina – 1,836 casualties
  • 1980 Heat Wave – 1,700 casualties

These devastating events made a major impact on our lives. I do not want to lessen their significance, nor do I want to compare devastation by looking at numbers. I only list them here to remind us what the country of the Philippines is going through. Personally, I have heard more conversation in the past few days about Jennifer Aniston’s new haircut, Kim Kardashian’s new post baby body, and Miley Cyrus’s new…um…image.

philippines boy

Why are massive tragedies less massive in the news if they don’t happen close to home?

Some people will say it’s because Americans don’t care about world events.

If I want to be honest, it might be a little true-but I don’t think it’s because we’re horrible, uncompassionate people. I genuinely believe most of us are kind, caring individuals.

So then why?

Is it because when an American dies, it feels like it could have happened to us? Maybe we could have been there or it feels like it happened to someone in our own family?

Maybe we feel closer to something if it happens somewhere we’ve once visited? If we’ve been there, we’re more connected to it. Most people in the U.S haven’t been to the Philippines, but many of us have been to New Jersey where Hurricane Sandy took place, or to Boston where the bombing took place.

Or maybe we can only face so much tragedy in a lifetime. We have so much going on in our daily lives, and our stress levels are already so high, we simply can’t bear to face events of the whole world. Maybe we only have the capacity to handle misfortunes closest to home, and if we opened ourselves up to all the horrific world events it would be too much.

It’s interesting to think about.

At the very least I encourage all of us to take a few minutes out of our day to think those who have lost their life and the survivors who are hanging on in the Philippines. And if you can do more, here’s how you can help.

Natural Beauty of the Philippines

Natural Beauty of the Philippines, before the storm.

I’d love to hear what others think about this topic. Has your experience been different from mine? Maybe I’m in the minority and conversation is more abundant than I think. I hope so!

*As of 11/13/13 the estimated number of deaths has been reduced from 10,000 to approximately 2,500.


6 Responses to Why aren’t we hearing more about the Philippines Typhoon?

  1. Decoybetty November 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    I’m an American in Australia, and it’s getting slightly more coverage here. The extra extra sad thing is that 1,200+ people die every day from starvation, aids, malaria, malnutrition, dirty water, etc etc and we don’t really hear about those on a daily basis either.

    • Denise Diamond November 16, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      Yes, it’s a very good point. There is so much tragedy in the world, but I guess we remain thankful for what we have and help where we can. :-)

  2. Megan @ Mapping Megan November 14, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    Thanks for writing this Denise. I was shocked and appalled to only hear about this yesterday – and I too like to think of myself as a Journalist. The sad part is that I work in a restaurant where we have up to 10 Television sets on at all times and I still hadn’t heard about the Typhoon. It’s a tragedy.

    There were fires recently in New South Wales, Australia, which is quite close to my home, and my comment was “crap, you know it’s bad when it makes the news here in the US”. It’s because of all of the reasons you listed, and would be completely different response in the media if an American had been killed, or if it was closer to home.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    • Denise Diamond November 14, 2013 at 8:55 am #

      Yes Megan, I totally agree. I can’t believe you work with 10 televisions and still didn’t know, that’s crazy! I hope the fires by your home didn’t impact any of your family & friends-that can be scary!

  3. Melissa November 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I’m starting to see more reporting on it, but not at the level you’d expect for such a tragedy. It’s a shame. I take a less generous view as to why that is… Most Americans are woefully uninformed and just don’t know enough to care. Loved that you posted something thought provoking about it though.

    • Denise Diamond November 12, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Melissa! I do wish there was more global awareness among us!

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