The Media Today

The media today: Covering Irma’s wrath

September 7, 2017

Less than two weeks after Harvey devastated parts of Texas, an even larger storm is churning through the Atlantic. Hurricane Irma has already left Barbuda “barely habitable” after passing directly over the small Caribbean island. Packing winds of up to 185 mph, the Category 5 storm has battered Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

In the US, media has focused primarily on the threat to Florida, where more than six million people live in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Newspapers, including The Miami Herald and The Orlando Sentinel, have dropped their paywalls to offer readers free access to coverage of the storm, which is expected to reach South Florida on Sunday.

Broadcast networks are sending top talent to the region, with ABC’s David Muir and NBC’s Lester Holt set to anchor their programs from Florida beginning tonight. Variety’s Brian Steinberg has more details on how “the nation’s TV-news outlets are preparing for another severe cycle.

During Harvey, outstanding reporting helped raise awareness about the catastrophic conditions facing those in Southeast Texas, but the proliferation of eyewitness video and images also allowed for the spread of fake news. The same issue has already reared its head as Irma makes its way across the Caribbean. BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman debunked a year-old video shared on Facebook that’s purporting to show Irma’s destruction. It’s already been viewed more than 28 million times.

As of this morning, Irma has passed the northern coast of Puerto Rico, heading for Hispaniola and the Bahamas. Below, more on the coverage of another catastrophic storm.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.