Okay, it’s normal for earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions to make the news – any maybe even normal for reporters to be struck dumb too. This may be especially true if the news person is in proximity to potential disaster, but what if there is no disaster? California reports in the aftermath of a small magnitude 4.4 earthquake there reveal the depth of dumb-founded-ness for writers. It is simply bad PR to under report or over report disaster warnings.
The world wakes up or goes to bed worrying if total annihilation is on its doorstep, well at least some of the world. Recent devastations in Haiti and Chile, along with Google erupting pyroclastic flows of stories over each event, have tended to sensitize the digital world – if not the physical one too. And where do people turn to find out whether to “duck and cover” or go to work? The L. A. Times? SFGate? The L. A. Daily News? Or maybe LaLate? No, these media moguls were situated above the geological event. Here’s there scientific analysis of the most recent seismic event in LA.
The L.A. Times In the Nick of Time
Los Angeles Times author Ruben Vives’ headline reads “4.4 earthquake jolts the L.A. area”, indicating perhaps the early morning tremor moved lots of stuff rapidly up, down, over, and around sharply we guess? But, then the author gets confused, bouncing back and forth between explicatives – it jolted, but it did not – it was felt, but only kinda sorta.
“A predawn earthquake sent a sharp jolt across the Los Angeles area Tuesday, but the magnitude 4.4 temblor was barely strong enough to knock items off shelves.”
As you can see, even the most timid Earth shaking in LA can summon a brain fog for LA reporters who offer up such significant instances of Non-damage as; “Not a single bottle broke at Walt’s Liquor Store in Pico Rivera, said owner Letti Talamantes.” God knows Letti breathed a sigh of relief after the LA Times verified the Crown Royal and Jim Beam were not damaged.
San Francisco Chronicle of Horror
If the LA Times devastation were not enough, things seemed even worse at SFGate, where a reporter known only as Zennie62 reported on several magnitude 4.0 and above quakes along the Pacific coast up to Alaska as being “rather alarming” even though that writers foreboding warnings seemed to be toward Alaska. At least this shaken author gave some links to places with real information, but urged readers to stay tuned for more announcements. Maybe being in San Francisco the tremors had less effect on this mysterious reporter?
Los Angeles Daily Spews
Obviously shaken by the early morning jitters, too much coffee, and a seismic event rattling nearly 12 miles beneath their feet , this unnamed Los Angeles Daily News writer urged residents to prepare for the BIG ONE, which apparently the author feared is right around the corner. In this article, with a lead in “Fair warning”, this cornucopia of geological knowledge informed LA residents; “Southern California is deep in earthquake territory.” Some readers were surely peeing their pants to discover that a major earthquake fault is right beneath their feet! Out of sheer terror, the reporter warned:
“We were lucky – this time – that the quake was a modest 4.4 magnitude that merely shook our beds and rattled the pictures on the walls. But chances are good that next time – or the time after that – the shaking will be longer and harder, maybe even The Big One.”
Well, if the BIG ONE strikes in the next few hours, this media outlet may be in the running for a Pulitzer. Good advice in preparedness was offered here, but some confusion existed as to whether earthquake victims should climb under the coffee table or stand in a doorway?
LA Sooner or Later
The most startled and disheveled reporter after the 4.4 magnitude quake appears to have been an LaLate writer. Just managing to type out 99 words and add pictures, this shaken journalist actually managed to scribble out where the event was (twice), and insinuate warm temperatures may have something to do with these events. In an upbeat (if somewhat uninformative) gesture, LaLate managed to gather what they termed “images” of the event, but seemed confused as to whether these were pictures of humans running in terror, or copied maps. The headline image showed the Earth beneath LaLate offices literally splitting in two.
The bad news to be gleaned from one of these images may have suggested to the unwary reader that all of California might be sliding off into the Pacific, but on the positive side, links to “Hot Photos” of Erin Andrews, Kim Kardashian, and other babes were inserted to soften the blow. Oh boy! “You may be crushed under mountains of rubble any minute, so check out these bimbos fast!”
Fortune Favors the Bold – Before It Strikes Obviously
Interestingly, the most thorough news in the wake of this LA tremor came from smaller news outlets like KTLA. These reporters seemed rather unshaken, revealing only a little sensationalism in on top of good journalism via a video (below). Great graphics and on the scene reporting reveal the calm (if somewhat bored) heads at this TV station. An on the scene reporter even summons the courage to climb aboard an emergency vehicle in this video report. However, interviewed officials in the report seemed a little over confident in suggesting they are ready for “The Big One” when queried. Maybe overconfidence is not what people want revealed when they consider devastation the likes of which California has never seen?
Boy are we glad the Earth seems stable under our feet here in Germany. The temptation to over dramatize is here too though. California is a world away for us sometimes. Heck, it is a world away from Arizona or any other neighbor most of the time. I wonder how many of these news outlets would put useful information in headlines if they were situated in, let’s say, Santiago?
My vision of these “super chicken” heralds of the public leans toward shaky video and saving their own asses if the Big One ever does strike though. Even a sheep can do better than this. Next L.A.’s media will be predicting RED HOT MAGMA flows when their bartender ignites an umbrella drink.
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