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Monday, March 01, 2010

TSUNAMI WRAP-UP: it was all about the shopping, folks

Increasingly likely that the tsunami, while serious in Chile and in theory, was highjacked as an excuse for the media and hotel folks to cook up a huge one-day shopping event that would boost the sagging local economy, raise TV ratings (and hence ad rates), mention all the stores and gas stations (advertisers) where you could stock up, and virtually force the tourists to order room service food in the expectation they'd be marooned for a week.

To be clear: the threat was real, but the Pacific Center knew by 6 am it would not be a major event, yet they and the Hawaii powers let an entire day unfold at crisis tempo.

We know how media works: it's exactly what happened with The Weather Channel in the two years following Katrina. Expecting an increase in hurricanes and preparing to get bought out, TWC turned every weather event into a catastrophe. And then sat there mumbling while no hurricanes hit the US for the next two years.

The plantation mentality in Hawaii is to just say, "Thank God nobody was hurt," and ignore the flaws and scare-mongering. Unfortunately, the odds of a free press shedding any light on the subject just went down a lot, given the fact that the day before the Tsunami alert the two Honolulu papers, The Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin, merged. The latter paper buying out the former and closing it--and this six months after all four local TV news stations merged.

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