Hurricanes & Aftermath: Is media coverage of natural disasters helping who it needs to?
Hurricane is pounding south Florida. Many homes are underwater trailer parks disappearing. Unfortunately three the people have been reported that incurred including a sheriff's deputy right now. We're getting record of one hundred forty kilometers per hour Sam Holden from the rail and I have to give me producer literally how they buy back. He's got my back because there's no way I can stand without someone. Helping me hurricanes James Flooding wildfires and other natural disasters I increase in strength and frequency as simple weather reports no longer enough as we mitigate the effects of these extreme green events and tried to shed light on those affected most but how we in the media handling our responsibility is just a competition ratings. How well do we the educate viewers about connections to climate change and I'll be allowing bias even politics to affect our coverage. I'm all invited. Welcome to the heat podcast joining us today to talk about covering extreme weather events is CGTL's. Miami correspondent needs Sorta Dot Perez among many things she covers hurricanes and other natural disasters for the network need so welcome to the podcast for having so that clip we heard of the top was from two thousand seventeen as hurricane. Irma was making landfall in Miami in Florida. Can you tell the listeners what was going on for you on that day at that time. Oh I saw I was thinking. What in the world am I doing outside. I can't deny that one of the things that I was thinking thinking but it is important for viewers to understand what's definitely gone on when an area is impacted by hurricane and the wear outside side they need to understand that they should not be outside that that you pose a very interesting question. Are we being fair. Are we just are. We doing this for ratings. How long how do we stay in hurricane coverage after we have those images so these are very very valid questions. Hurricane Irma here in Miami did not do that how much damage though on TV it looks really ominous. The era that was most impacted were the keys you know when we watch television coverage. If a hurricane hurricane that tends to be it seems a competition for the most extreme weather shot for reporters during these events we see rivers leaning into the winds. You know these heavy winds that come up yeah. We see reporters getting pelted with rain. Heavy rain is that healthy is that safe and they'd and I'm guilty of that. I have to admit it I've done it we we. We do believe that that's what I want to see but is that responsible. That's still a very good question but at the same time. How else would you cover it? We're not out there hallows. Would we let our viewers or listeners know that it is a dangerous situation because sometimes you can send all the warnings thanks to the people and they still go outside and it's not only me when I'm close to the ocean. We see the surfers. We need people taking shots recording doing facebook guas themselves because that's what we're all doing this days people wanting to not only see matrix but they want to be part of the story themselves and journalists. We do it with them and again. We need to educate people more about the aftermath of the hurricanes not just about the good shot on television yeah when it gets an amendment but you know when we watch coverage of natural disasters like hurricane saw some of man-made disasters like Amazon fires I mean we looked at Hurricane Dorian recently. It's hard not to notice that these events have now taken on something of a political angle a geopolitical angle. If you like in the media do you find that as you cover these things it's become part of you beat pun a few duty part of your responsibility to cover these political angles in these disasters as well most desolate malate starting with a recent the recent coverage of Hurricane Maria it was the response from the government how different it was when you compare it to. Hurricane Harvey we were in Texas for Hurricane Harvey that was the second most costly hurricane to hit the US We're talking about one hundred twenty five billion dollars. I love those more than two hundred thousand homes were damaged and destroyed but then you saw how quickly the US federal government moved to help the people of Texas X.'s. We did not see that when Hurricane Maria impacted Puerto Rico a few weeks later Maria was the third costliest with ninety billion billion dollars in damages and the Human Talibans were over three thousand people. It was hard for me not to press that point when I was reporting live or doing my own stories because Puerto Ricans. Were not getting the same kind of assistance than other. US citizens were getting so at that point point. It was extremely important to discuss the political part of hurricane response of course as you mentioned a moment ago this covering the hurricane itself but those there's also the author the recovery part of that to cover. Let's play another clip of yours. This one is from two thousand seventeen after hurricane. Harvey brought severe flooding to Humble Texas town of pummeled. Texas is beginning the recovery process cleaning up getting homes. The sense of loss is overwhelming Wyoming for many. It's not thinks this is the books and the pictures Lord of old family pictures lost and we had these shelves full of books and we have to leave in a hurry so I emptied most of them but I left a cop show that high but it and these are like over forty years at electric from all over the world I did mention in several copies of the Koran but somewhat did stupid get damaged to the holy works. I'm going to save and dry them and if they can't be saved a bill you can't you can't desecrated that disappoint so listening to that. They and you'll coverage how many of these stories do here. How do you think the media handles the sort of human even toll these events well. I think in general the media focus too much on the live shot on just giving presents to the network fortunately fortunately at C. J. T. N. I I can't enough time to explore the neighborhoods that are being affected besides doing the license but again it takes time and you have to spend time with these people so they can open up to you. the Clinton you displayed with Mr side credential. It took a while. I spent some time in that house. I watched him cleaning. I even try to help them and all of a sudden when he's talking to me and he's explaining that he's lost everything and he stopped. I mean he tells me this is the first time I've cried and it was one of those moments that it's not only about journalism it's about being human mm-hmm and and I was crying with him because I understood as he did of course the meaning of the moment a man that that it's probably fifty or more it's like he was starting again with his wife. So I think in the media we need to do a better job of telling those human stories but for that you have to stay longer. It gets expensive for them again at works to do this kind of reporting but it's not just doing the livestock. Sometimes you need to rent a helicopter you. The reporter has to be at risk including videographer to get to the people and going back to your question. I think we can do more so we see a very often the immediate damage after the hurricane hits but what about recovery long-term recovery you know does the media stick around there to follow up on the areas most affected to see how L. People are recovering from these major disasters now now we don't unfortunately we do not do enough of it. it doesn't sell the follow up. It's it he doesn't have that handle is shot or the reporter in the middle of the rain and the wind so sometimes after a reporter you have to sell it to your network why we need to go oh back and do that follow up sometimes when you have refugees or countries outside the US you'd have a lot of pledges from the international community and then a year later sometimes with this money doesn't come through Let's see what's GonNa Happen. Now with Hurricane Dorian but we saw that with Hurricane Irma in Antiga Barbuda's it was a Chinese government a few years later trying to help them to rebuild but many of the other countries had not given them the money so yes we do need to do more of the follow story and and stay longer but again. Is that sexy. No it's not right in speaking of follow ups. here's one of yours from the Florida keys. This was ten months after a Hurricane Irma. We first met Rita days. After hurricane. Irma entered the keys as a category four storm. She was assessing the damage to her mobile while home. It was up timber of last year. She had to go to live with her daughter for three months. Why did you decide to come back and and repair your mobile home. Turn into a house well because it's my home you know I mean I couldn't afford to go someplace else with the way prices are I couldn't even get a room even studio would be you know twelve fifteen hundred dollars you know and you know. Where else could I go this. This is my home for thirty almost thirty years. That's a house we went in. Those with more resources are buying up the most secure poverties and there is a turn for this so what is climate gentrification exactly to me very honest with you. I learned their term doing that story and basically what it means is that those people that have more resources are buying the more secure properties and the poor people have to stay in the low lying areas areas and many times in properties that are not even insured even if they wanted to buy some kind of insurance so that is a definition of climate change appreciation. We're seeing a lot of that here in Florida especially in the keys you have this amazing houses that are being built right in front of the ocean on stilts but many of them start at seven hundred eight hundred thousand dollars and the people that live there. They definitely cannot afford that so many of them. I'm just risk it. They try to get their trailer repaired but they don't have the money to move further inland and start fresh in the media's coverage of natural disasters. Have you seen any disparity or bias of coverage based on socioeconomic race all the time. I have to say especially in the United. It's as of America and I've worked with different networks when you have brown black people people that are poor. It's hard to push for coverage and again. I'm I'm not. I'm not pointing out any of that work in specific you. Just you constantly see it. Let let's remember what happened with Katrina. In two thousand five. The government was slow to respond the the networks. Were slow to respond. We saw the same thing happening with Haiti earthquake it was not until the member starting coming out then more than two hundred thousand people people had died that the networks went to Haiti and then once again Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico people had not deployed. I was one of the few reporters were there before during an after her Maria because Puerto Ricans are Hispanics so the interest is not the same as when you have richer areas affected by category five hurricane so what can the media due to recognize. It's bias in coverage quote. We would have to explore racism system and then have another show talk about it 'cause it. Unfortunately it comes down to that. It's still a battle for minority to even be reporters. You and I are minorities already and we are not the majority on air talent and that is a fact. It's a struggle because we might have an accident because we might look different so imagine if get into talent. It's hard getting the story out. It's even harder as reporter covering these natural disasters you someone who's dependent on accurate weather for cost. What are you thought about this recent controversy. We've had at Noah that's the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The employees claim they're instructed to not contradict predict president trump's statements about hurricane doyennes path especially its path affecting the state of Alabama for national shame I mean when we politicize the National Hurricane Center and the forecasting of the United States. How are people going to believe in their message. I cannot imagine how the people of Alabama felt those that of course believe the president of the United States saying that they could be affected. I mean people have to get prepared some of them. They run out of money trying to get ready for it. Its Hurricanes Games. Most certainly it's something that should not happen and notably reports but the people depend on this forecast politics should not be part of this and they should let the scientists do their work and talking about outside influences. I mean is it possible to cover. Natural disasters like hurricanes flooding wildfires etc without talking about about climate change and we know that that is a very controversial subject as well. Do you have an option. Do you have to link the two to someone that was born and raised in Puerto Rico and before I moved to continental. Oh you as I've lived through many hurricanes Hurricane Hugo Hugo George Maryland and they were not as strong as they are in in in this past year at least that is my experience and scientists confirm the same so we have to ask ourselves. Why are we getting this monster. Storms category I five category or five plus with Hurricane Dorian even Hurricane Maria Hurricane Harvey so we have to wonder why is this happening and it is because we have warmer oceans and that's undeniable now when half I want to say that that is not true then it's it's a very complicated scenario when you're trying to reported yes. Some people say it's fake news that this is just you know maitre doing what it has to do. When you see an increase on the intensity of these systems you have to really after self and ask your audience to think if climate change is fake of some politicians wanted to make leave you mentioned Puerto Rico to go in the fact that you were born there in two thousand seventeen you were assigned to cover Hurricane Maria and the immense destruction that he left on the island at the same time you have a family there and they still live there including mother mother reporter as a person who comes from Puerto Rico. What was that experience like. I have to say that it's it's been the hardest after covering the Haiti earthquake those the two hardest assignments ever had in Puerto Rico. The situation was so dire after it hits though technically I was is close to my mother I would work the whole day and then after I finished work I know I wasn't supposed to drive my little gee. I left my geographer in the hotel safe and sound and I told him I need to know if my mom is alive and she's okay and you know it was is driving. I remember it was about eleven pm when I had just finished editing our story and when I saw that the building was okay and it was so dark and I went upstairs and she was okay it it it was a sense of calm that came back to me and PS covering Puerto Rico. It was completely completely different scenario every time I came back to that hotel. I had to decompress because it's not the same when you're covering any other city than when it's your own when when you see the streets that used to walk your favorite coffee place completely destroyed and people asking asking you about their family at one point. I remember going to the mountain and the only thing I could do because we had no signal. I would record whoever asked me for assistance and I'm like tell me Your name. Tell me who you're looking for and as soon as I would get back to the hotel I would post that on social media and many people reconnected that way and they learned that their family members their parents were okay because some of us we were doing that kind of job that had nothing to do with reporting but just trying Ryan to reconnect people. Here's a clip from your reporters notebook in September twenty seventeen as you're leaving your assignment in Puerto Rico today's Today's last name Puerto Rico as you can see where the airport it was quite challenging trying to get a flight or generally American Airlines was not gonNa Fly us until October twenty six. Yes we managed to get a flight through a local travel agency for some reason they bought in bulk many of this tickets and the reselling them to to to the local that are trying to leave. I found that a little bit interesting and it's capitalism at its best right now when and we were returning the the rental car the woman that was receiving the car. She lost her home. She has nowhere to go. She's like I only have this job. I might have to I believe and I keep using the word heartbreaking because that is the only thing that comes to mind. It's heartbreaking to see how people are struggling today. It's still close to ten percent of the population. Only has power fifty percents have of the Allen is without water. It's really hard to live under those conditions and my family is going through the same I just said goodbye to my mother yesterday and she has no power and she has no water and if they are desperate and I wish I could stay longer to keep reporting but there are other stories to cover so I have to to go back to Miami but my heart stays here and I will be back to cover more stories and we'll be back even at the personal level to help my the island Puerto Rico anyway and I choked and I and I even still choke doc matthaeus thinking about it. there was still no water no power in Puerto Rico people were still fighting to get out and I understood that I was leaving my seventy one year old mother home and though my brother is there. I'm like I'm leaving her low and it it down to me that Oh my God I'm going back to come forward and you know she will stay in Puerto Rico without power for a few more months until I can make it back in and you know try to help her in any way I can't soon. It's going back two years of Hurricane Maria what are the greatest challenges that put a Rica Vases right now at this point the biggest corruption and again the political infighting between the federal government and the local government of Puerto Rico. We are constantly seeing this tweets from President trump saying that Puerto Rico has received ninety two billion dollars and one more time we in the media have to point out the fact that only fifteen billion dollars have been disbursed to the island and mostly those funds have gone to female so the biggest challenge is that we have not received the federal funds to rebuild and everything that's happening in matters improvement and reconstruction. It's been the private sector and the Puerto Ricans. They ask for a helping the island to survive so it is at this point. It's politics what's hindering the true recovery of Puerto Rico as these storms. These natural disasters grows stronger and more frequent as we are seeing. Do you see the media changing the way it covers them. Yes it's changing but I don't think it's changing for the better we have this emphasis now and social media as though again. It's sexy shot. Kangols shot the you know where people are basically dying kind of shot. That's what's going to get you more Followers were clicks these days. We're all about how many clicks we're. GonNa get on our story. Broadcasting is important but now it's all about how it plays on the Internet so so unfortunately I have to say that we're not getting any better. I just hope that with more international media having better resources in covering under story we can get a better coverage for those events might not be rich end and white one focal point. If you could could pick one principal to guide your colleagues covering natural disasters what would that be just me turn to the fact and especially make it about the people your story should be about the people suffering stabbed should be the focus nothing else thanks so much for being with us my a pleasure meets a SORTA. Peres the Miami correspondent for CGTL. The heat is produced by CGT in America executive producers terraced terraced h our senior producer John Gilmore Produces Jeff Milstein Holly Shepherd Mario Shah and Mirvish con out digital producers Josh Rivaldo and Out Director of digital development as Michael Gauri once again. I'm on a ninety extra listening.