Friday, February 4, 2011

Media Responsibility?

    On January 12, 2010 a devastating 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, shattering the lives of millions of people causing life-shattering consequences (CBC, 2010). The consequences of the earthquake are vast and fatal to the impoverished nation of Haiti.  True to form, the media immediately captured the news of this disaster and spread the story of suffrage and consequences worldwide. Since the devastation of the January earthquake, not only have people been having to deal with earthquake fatalities and being displaced from their homes, but also, a fatal – if untreated – cholera epidemic has been rampant, claiming thousands of lives to date (CIDA, 2010). The virulent cholera epidemic – defined as a diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated (WHO, 2010) – is caused by drinking dirty water or eating food that has been cooked in contaminated water (Dearing, 2010).  The media commonly speculates cholera to be present in Haiti as a result of the earthquakes consequences, thus framing contaminated water systems to be in part a result of the destruction of the earthquake (Manthorpe, 2010). However, the media also addresses the epidemic as proliferated due to the fact that much of Haiti’s population is displaced, living in tent cities subject to contaminated water sources resulting from the earthquake (Manthorpe, 2010).  
     It may be argued that the media plays a positive role in preventing, lessening or helping remediate the cholera epidemic, as online, TV and print news, and radio media outlets are responsible for capturing and proliferating information about the cholera epidemic worldwide. Thus not only a heightened awareness is created, but also, an introduction to international organizations such as PAHO, UNICEF and the Red Cross responsible for helping to fight Haiti’s cholera outbreak (Dearing, 2010).  However, perhaps the media is responsible for framing the epidemic in a way to socialize donations from the public, for the impoverished, population.
    It is important to acknowledge the deeper role of the media and how the media may chose to manipulate, frame and present news based on their own agenda, thus perhaps creating – instead of lessening – certain negative conditions favorable to occurrences such as Haiti’s cholera epidemic. Although a myriad of varied media outlets are pivotal in spreading the news of Haiti throughout the world, I argue that the media is complicit in the creation of the conditions that led to the cholera epidemic, as amidst the continuous media coverage fuelling donations the epidemic is still present. The said viewpoint may argue that the plethora of sensationalized media coverage has sparked a great public response of donations however as a result Haiti is “frozen in a destructive cycle of aid-dependence and exploitation. . . stripping Haiti of its self-determination” (O’Connor, 2010) and thus contributing to conditions favoring the present cholera epidemic. Further, the superficial, sensational news media reporting on Haiti’s problems – i.e in BBC, CBC and CNN’s repetitive reporting on how Haiti is the poorest country in the world and the provision of pictures featuring dehydrated children – creates viewership and thus donations, yet still the appropriate systems to relieve Haiti of this epidemic seem not to have been effectively put in place. Amongst the coverage of post earthquake Haiti, the media also seems to focus more so on a superficial portrayal of poverty in Haiti rather than the cholera epidemic and what actually needs to be done for realistic relief. The media coverage constitutes a ‘good story,’ albeit the media has no long-term responsibility to Haitians. Thus, the media acts as a factor aiding the perpetuation of a “system of aid-dependence and misguided development policies that help keep Haiti poor” (O’Connor, 2010) and therefore susceptible to and plagued by consequences such as cholera. Also, many media sources will address amounts of aid given, i.e. the world has pledged over 3.4 billion pounds to Haiti (over 6 billion USD) (Owens, 2010).  However, there is little reporting that investigates how exactly the aid organizations have spent the money, as amidst the mass coverage, positive effects asserted to cure the epidemic seem not to be coming to fruition (O’Connor, 2010). American media frames Haitian poverty and the cholera outbreak in a “typically lurid fashion, with little attention to the underlying causes” (O’Connor, 2010) as when addressed, the outbreak is framed as a result of Haiti’s crushing poverty, with little context (O’Connor, 2010). Therefore, the media is complicit in the creation of conditions that led to Haiti’s cholera epidemic as it infrequently addresses the cholera epidemic in much post earthquake news flooding our media outlets, and further, generally does not address the underlying issues and larger story, such as that Haiti’s susceptibility to the present, virulent cholera epidemic is “a symptom of failed foreign policies and organizations that have left the Haitian people as poor as ever and disconnected from the mechanisms of their own development” (O’Connor, 2010) and failing to equipt Haitians with knowledge as to how to eradicate conditions favorable to epidemics such as cholera. Overall, much media frames news on Haiti in a superficial, favorable way to acquire and satisfy certain means, thus asserting its negative role in the Haiti cholera epidemic, visible by the fact that amidst all the said support, supposed funds and infrastructure given to Haiti, the cholera epidemic is present, claiming lives daily.


       Although the overall effort to prevent the inception of cholera initially as well as give the people the knowledge to prevent the rampant spread of cholera are indeed lacking, I thought this image was very interesting and a glimpse of positivity amongst the very trying cholera situation in Haiti.  This image is a poster written in creole,  created by UNICEF and other partners advising people what measures and precautions to take to take in an effort to avoid cholera. Many people are perhaps unaware as to what is actually causing cholera and in which ways it can spread, therefore I found this effort quite interesting.  However, this is the only preventative resource I came across that actually somewhat educated the people as to the possible causes of cholera and the ways in which it could easily spread. I am not too sure as to how widespread this image has been made and understood in Haiti, however I believe this is a great positive effort directed at the people, a resource in which  can foster positive outcomes. This image is a glimpse of  a positive effort amongst the grave tribulations faced by Haiti's population as a result of the introduction  of cholera.  Lastly,  I also believe this image is great as it has minimal exclusionary characteristics towards its audience as it presents both text and images (for Haitians who may illiterate).                                         



1. Canada Expands Its Response To Cholera Outbreak In Haiti

      2010 Canadian International Development Agency. Electronic Document,, accessed January 10, 2011.

2. Cholera

      2010 World Health Organization.  Electronic Document,

3. Cholera in Haiti linked to UN troops: report

      December, 2010 CBC News. Electronic document,


4. Dearing, Stephanie

        October, 2010 Cholera outbreak worsens while world rushes to help Haiti again. Digital Journal. Electronic Document,, accessed January 09, 2011.

5.  Manthorpe, Jonathan
      October, 2010, Cholera Strikes Haiti Earthquake Refugee Camps. The Vancouver Sun.  Electronic Document,, accessed January 08, 2011.

6. O’ Connor, Maura
      2010 Haiti Coverage and ‘Disaster Porn’: Cholera Epidemic Offers B-Roll For Nightly Newscasts. Columbia Journalism Review.  Electronic Document,, accessed January 12, 2011

7. Owens, Nick
      July, 2010 Where’s the Money For Haiti Gone? News Mirror. Electronic Document,, accessed January 09, 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment