Good question. Two points. First, disasters are typically measured by economic impact, not lives or environmental damage.
So, the Black Forest Fire(good wiki entry) is the “worst in state history” due to the number of homes destroyed, which is now close to 500.
Agreed. There were many other fires in Colorado that were geographically larger, destroyed more volumes of trees and habitat, killed more animals, and killed more people.
Natural disasters that kill a lot of people are categorized as “deadliest” (here’s a list). Damage to ecosystems are categorized as “environmental disasters” (this later category is, if memory serves, unofficial and possibly arbitrary since disasters are measured by relative [shorter term] economic impact).
Second point is there are known, but little discussed, problems in the field of journalism. Among them: Using proper definitions; filtering bias; incorporating appropriate perspective; and time.
Time is especially problematic in disaster reporting because the information flow is fast paced and constantly shifting. Thus, as you pointed out, early reports include incorrect terms that (usually) disappear as the story develops.
In the case of Black Forest Fire, early reports may have (I did not check) stated it was one of the “largest” fires rather than just “worst.” Recent reports have clarified it as the “worst.”
Does that help?
Presumably because the two former environment editors are moving to new tasks, making it an orphaned effort in a shrinking newsroom: “Tracking the Green Blog’s Reporters.”
I note that at the time of this posting, the above reader-notice has “0” comments…
David Harris, freelance science writer, on why he thinks traditional journalism practices undermine science journalism’s ability to reach new audiences. Do you think this is true? How should a journalist approach the issue of balance?
Read more about Harris’s work in this week’s featured member profile on journalists.org.
Not really. Often times journalists don’t have much say in the final product. Drafts come back from editors asking for grafts to balance the story. It’s likely the newspaper doesn’t want to be perceived as biases and/or playing favorites. Second, though a small group, flat-earthers are incredibly vocal and can cause severe damage if they’re voice is not heard. So, papers operate both on fear and on self-perception.
Yet, I find that modern science reporting rarely follows this same model of fear. Many newspapers are increasingly likely to report the truth. The NYTimes, for example, has dozens of dedicated staff that reports on science from all angles, from business to progressive. They publish several pieces per day and skip the “balance” part mentioned above.
So, I push back against Harris and ask for some data supporting his conclusion. I think he’s operating on a perception of the recent past, and not on a snap-shot of today’s newspapers.
Follow up to my previous post: Starvation returns to the Horn of Africa, extreme drought, high food prices, rape. The Economist and Al Jazeera are vigilantly covering the devastating drought in east Africa - the worst since the 1960s effecting Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Aid groups can’t get in sufficiently to provide food, water, and shelter. Refugee camps, it seems, are run by militant rebel groups.
Some rebel groups have cut deals with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab to allow starving refugees cross borders.
The U.S. State Department has issued a strongly worded letter to al-Shabaab to allow foreign aid into Somalia. Update below
Who is to blame? An oscillation in the climate in the form of La Niña—a cooling of the surface temperature across the equatorial eastern-central Pacific, causing big changes in airflow and weather patterns—is likely to have contributed to the droughts.
But humans too play a part. “This is a preventable disaster and solutions are possible,” says Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s humanitarian director. It is no coincidence that the worst-affected areas are also the poorest in the region. Long-term investment could have made villages and towns more resilient.
Update: US Dept. of State sending food aid.
This week, USAID activated a disaster assistance response team (DART) operating out of Ethiopia and Kenya to work with the World Food Program, UNICEF, and over a dozen other organizations to coordinate emergency efforts to relieve the crisis. So far this year, the United States has provided more than $366 million to respond to the drought in the Horn of Africa, and continues to explore additional ways to assist those in need.
Read the Press release, here.