I Heart The BBC & A POV Roundup

KQED radio (88.5 FM) out of San Francisco is my public radio station on the San Jose side of “the hill.” Two nights a week now, I drive home to Santa Cruz late enough to catch the BBC World Service report – it’s all international news, all the time.

I love it.

Not only because I’m taking an International Communications class this semester and it helps to tune my radio/aggregator/newsbrain to the rest of the world, but because the journalism and interactivity on the BBC kicks ass.

Yes, that’s how much a geek I have become: I just described the BBC’s journalism and interactivity as ass-kicking.

Last night, I heard a BBC reporter on the ground in New Orleans, interviewing…whoever would talk to him, which was everyone who he had time to give a turn to. One woman told the story of climbing down the railing of her collapsed balcony, putting her child in an inflated kiddie-pool, and swimming a long way to relative safety. “We kicked,” she said.

You could hear the chaos in the background, you could hear the concern in the voices of the people, and already you could hear the sound of discontent with the priorities of rescuers and emergency aid. I’m paraphrasing here, but one woman said the government only cared about you “if you’re a business. We don’t give them any money, so they don’t care about us.”

If there’s not a serious conversation about race, poverty, and priorities in the aftermath of whatever happens next in America, then we’re missing something.

After the report, which had itself followed the standard run-down of civic leaders talking about the devastation, the host of the show read an SMS text message he had just received from a man in Phuket, Thailand who encouraged Americans to stop compaing Hurricane Katrina to the 2004 Tsunami. And then the host gave out the email address and SMS number, asking for feedback on the show.

File that one under “good globalization,” when I can drive in San Jose and listen to a radio show from London reporting on New Orleans and a listener in Phuket can participate.

I like it when I don’t have to yell back at the radio. The governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, compared the damage in Mississippi to Hiroshima. Sometimes this is the sort of thing I wake up to, as the NPR news blasts from the alarm clock at 530am. I probably woke up my wife by shouting some sort of ridiculous obscenity at the radio when I heard Barbour say that.

Hiroshima looked like this:Hiroshima 1945public domain image from http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/images/historical/hiroshima.jpg

Governor, when 80,000 of your closest friends and neighbors are vaporized by an atomic weapon and thousands more die of radiation-related illness, let me know.

Meanwhile in Iraq, almost 1,000 people died yesterday. 1,000. The story was buried yesterday at this time on CNN.com, while MSNBC.com had it right next to the lead Katrina/Aftermath graphic. I admit I don’t really see what’s going on in the TV spectrum, as I don’t see much of it, but in any other week this would have been the top story everywhere.

I’ve been concerned for a long time about what the American media thinks is the difference between an American life and the life of a non-American. Personally, I think every life has the same weight, but maybe others don’t see it that way.

What do you think? Is the media responsible for balancing disaster coverage and providing perspective on the amount of damage and death, or is it more important to just get the reporting done right now, and save the analysis for later?

[tags]BBC, journalism, Katrina, New Orleans, media ethics, Iraq stampede[/tags]

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