WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Wildfires, Hurricanes, & Journalism

Sep 13, 2017

The problems caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have been well-covered in the media.  Meanwhile, wildfires have also caused destruction in parts of the U.S. but have not received as much coverage.

Shop Talk’s Rich Egger wondered why.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said she is not surprised by the amount of coverage devoted to the hurricanes.  She said both hit heavily populated areas while the wildfires have generally been in less populated regions.  She said the more people effected, the bigger the story.

Crighton said the remote location of many wildfires also makes it more difficult for journalists to cover them.

Panelist Will Buss said the hurricanes received a lot of attention because of the magnitude of the storms -- Hurricane Harvey generated a record amount of rainfall. He also said hurricanes the size of Harvey and Irma don’t happen frequently, while devastating wildfires seem to happen just about every year.

Egger said it’s possible hurricanes receive more coverage because forecasters have a pretty good idea where and when they will hit, which gives newsrooms a chance to prepare for them.  Wildfires can’t be predicted.

Crighton said newsrooms also can’t reliably predict the path taken by wildfires, which can make them more dangerous for reporters (and firefighters).