Talking Trump, missing Matthew

Donald Trump’s Teflon coating has at last started to wear thin. Though his campaign was already built on an unfortunate pile of xenophobia, islamophobia, ableism, sexism, racism, et cetera, it is his overt boast about committing sexual assault that has finally stuck and is forcing many Republican stalwarts to draw lines in the sand.

The release of the video with Trump’s lewd comments is being billed as the coup de grâce to his campaign—finally, the world has proof of Trump’s misogyny.

Inasmuch as it is a tragedy for the Trump campaign and a victory for the Clinton campaign, however, the news of Trump’s transgressions demonstrates a greater terror: even, or perhaps especially, when he is at his worst, Trump is still robbing more significant happenings of vital coverage, and the media is aiding him.

The danger of making a spectacle of Donald Trump has been covered—we know that to sensationalize Donald Trump is to risk normalizing him, and we know that it is a mistake to treat his candidacy as comedy and not horror. Still, it is possible for valuable and very necessary reporting on Trump and the election to overshadow other news that needs telling.

giphy-5

On October 4th, the Category 4 Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti. Developing reports put the death toll at roughly 900 people, with 1.4 million Haitians in need of aid, and thousands of homes destroyed. Logistical and infrastructural barriers are keeping the Haitian government and volunteers from assessing the damage and loss wrought by the disaster.

More simply put: Hurricane Matthew is the most devastating hurricane to reach the Haitian mainland in the last fifty years.

In addition to the destruction of property, infrastructure, and life, the aftermath of Matthew presents another danger: the reemergence of a large-scale cholera outbreak.

In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that hit Haiti hardest, 10,000 people died from the cholera outbreak that followed, caused in large part by the United Nations. Since then, its spread and treatment had been brought under control. At last count, however, 13 deaths have been linked to the disease since Matthew hit, with another 200 suspected new cases, indicating an uptick in its spread. Given the obstacles on the ground, including road blockage, flooding, and a reported quarter of health centers in the south of Haiti destroyed or damaged, the question of how to administer aid is a significant challenge.

In response to the feared outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has committed to sending 1 million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti. In addition to medicine, food, and water, clothing and shoes are greatly needed for those displaced.

This is all to say that hard times are befalling Haiti.

Yet, with 27 days until the presidential election, Hurricane Matthew’s impact on Haiti is given little space, if any, on the front pages of major print news and their online homepages. Greater coverage would increase awareness and inspire much-needed support for local Haitian aid organizations to contain disease and begin recovery.

A week after the storm made landfall, Haiti coverage is but a blip under the New York Times’ coverage of the hurricane’s impact on the Southern United States,

nyt1

relegated to the Voices section on USA TODAY’s website,

usat1

and nowhere to be found on the Wall Street Journal’s homepage.

wsj1

The three most widely-circulated newspapers in the United States are not giving Haiti even the second largest feature spots on their homepages. All of them, though, do have the names of both major-party nominees and at least one of their photos featured prominently at the top.

Consider this coverage. Consider donating to local aid organizations and not the American Red Cross (see why). Though little media attention is being paid to Haiti relative to Donald Trump, its plight in the wake of Hurricane Matthew cannot go unnoticed.

For a list of local aid organizations in Haiti, click here.


Illustrations by: Nick Graves
Animation by: Gabriel Connelly