Friday, April 1, 2011

A "World"'s Worth of Quality Stories

We now begin the final lap of the networks.  “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” has its last chance to prove it is the most objective of the three.

                This story deals with how the United States is gravely unprepared to deal with a major earthquake of the same magnitude as Japan’s recent quake.  Anchor Diane Sawyer begins the piece by saying that the United States is not ready for a catastrophic earthquake.  This rhetoric is continued throughout the rest of the feature.  Sawyer then hands off the report to Steve Osunsami, on location in Memphis, Tenn.  Osunsami talks about how Memphis is situated on the New Madrid Fault, one of the most volatile fault lines in the country.  He also says that the New Madrid line is due for a big quake, as the last big tremor from it was in the late nineteenth century.  The report is supplemented with quotes from various experts and professors, all saying that the middle of the United States would be the worst place for an earthquake to hit and yet the easiest place for it to do major damage.  Gary Patterson from the Center of Earthquake Research talks about how the earth is flatter in the middle of America, allowing the shockwaves to travel faster and for longer periods of time.  This type of geological feature is contrasted against the earth in California where the ground is fragmented and does not transmit waves as well.  Osunsami talks about how Memphis would suffer massive damage in both economic and human terms, as many of the buildings there were not built in a time of strict building codes which protect against earthquakes.  Osunsami ends the report by saying that preparedness is key and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be conducting drills across the country in the coming weeks.
                This report does a good job of keeping things balanced, but really, who likes earthquakes?  In a way, this may be a bit of fear mongering on the part of ABC.  Along with the radiation scare from Japan, does the public really need to be worrying about when the New Madrid Fault is going to rupture?   Contrarily, ABC does provide good information, especially the bits about how FEMA will be conducting drills and generally raising awareness of this often overthought natural problem.  Osunsami is a bit overzealous when he talks of how the New Madrid Fault’s next quake is “not a matter of if, but when.”  His tone is just a tad too dramatic for an evening broadcast.  He can leave the drama to the History Channel’s “How the World Will End!” specials.  Overall, ABC conducts good research and provides solid facts on this issue.

                This feature dealt with America’s involvement in Libya and compared the current conflict with the Soviet-Afghan war.  Sawyer begins by giving an update on the current movements of the rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces and then sends the report to senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper.  Tapper takes over and describes the “new step” the United States is taking in the Middle East.  He reports of a “secret Presidential finding” concerning “covert aid” being sent to the rebels within Libya.  While this finding does not directly arm the rebels, it does pave the way for such action.  Tapper then recalls the actions of the late Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Texas.  He recounts how in the 1980s America armed Afghan rebels in order to fight off the Soviets.  Those rebels later became the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  Tapper then segued into an analysis of how much the administration knows about the rebels.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quoted as saying that there is less information available than would be preferred.  Tapper then reveals that a study conducted by West Point indicated 19 percent of all foreign fighters in Iraq have come from Libya.  Tapper concludes by highlighting how the coming days could have many unintended consequences.  The report ends with a note that President Obama has not yet approved arming of Libyan rebels.
                To be honest, I liked this report.  Tapper does a job of explaining what the administration is doing currently, while contrasting that against how little information is known about the people America is helping.  The White House and ABC have finally admitted that this ambiguity within the Libyan rebels is troubling.  This admission is long overdue.  Granted, Tapper is a bit vague in his description of the “Secret Presidential Finding,” but it is secret, after all.  My question with that is, “Where’s the transparency, Mr. President?”  However, Tapper fantastically draws comparisons between this conflict and the Soviet-Afghan war.  This is a fair criticism of, and warning to, the administration, without being biased.  Tapper is sure to not condemn the administration but instead shows the history available.  He provides a solid, smart report that is both objective and entertaining.  I praise ABC for this excellent story.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so interested in the New Madrid fault. We stopped in New Madrid, Missouri, a year or so ago but the earthquake museum was closed. I read an interesting book about the big earthquake there in the 18-teens, and it lasted for the better part of a year (eight months?) -- the earth rolled and rolled (visibly, they say). It caused church bells to toll in Boston. The quake caused such trouble in Charleston that everyone added earthquake bars to stabilize their houses. Those star-shaped ornamentation on Chalreston houses (this is Charleston, SC) are the heads of bars that run all the way through the house to stabilize it, and they stem from the New Madrid quake. One town disappeared entirely in the quake, and the Mississippi ran backward for awhile near New Madrid. Fascinating!