CNN’s Bill Weir called it “the worst humanitarian disaster I’ve covered since Katrina.” CBS’s David Begnaud took viewers inside a hospital where patients waited by candlelight. Vox estimated that the death toll in Puerto Rico is far higher than what’s been officially reported. Three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the US territory, plunging 3.4 million Americans into crisis, reporting on Puerto Rico’s dire straits depicts an island in desperate need of more help.
Yesterday, President Trump tweeted that FEMA, the US military, and first responders can’t stay in Puerto Rico “forever,” and that Congress must “decide how much to spend.” Those comments stand in stark relief to statements the president made about Florida and Texas in the wake of hurricanes in those states, and they come as 84 percent of the island is still without electricity, and a third of its residents are without access to running water.
A morning w/ @drcarlosmellado – in between seeing patients he refueled a generator, spilled on himself, & went back to work @CBSEveningNews pic.twitter.com/6f07HPwGf5
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) October 12, 2017
The extent of the devastation wrought by Maria means any recovery will be long and painstakingly drawn out. Even as journalists work to keep the island’s plight in the news, stories surrounding California’s wildfires, Harvey Weinstein’s actions, and Trump’s health-care decision threaten to push Puerto Rico to the back burner. Though all three networks broadcast pieces from the island in their evening news shows last night, none of them led with Puerto Rico. The New York Times has reporters on the ground, but only two stories have made the front page this week.
The aftermath of a natural disaster, as suffering unfolds on a slower timeline than in the initial event, is always more difficult to keep at the front of the national conversation. The lack of focused attention given to Puerto Rico was apparent even in the early days after the storm. But as millions of Americans struggle to gain access to basic necessities and medical treatment, it’s vital that news organizations highlight reporting from the island and make sure the stories of those in peril aren’t lost in the flood of content.
Below, more from a crisis on American soil.
- Backlash to Trump’s message: The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker, Arelis R. Hernández, and Manuel Roig-Franzia report on the frustration caused by Trump’s apparent indifference to the realities on the ground.
- A painfully slow response: The New York Times’s Paul Krugman takes aim at the response to Puerto Rico, writing in his column that “What we’re actually witnessing, in effect, is the betrayal and abandonment of three and a half million of our own people.”
- Our fellow citizens: NPR’s Tim Webber asks what being a US territory means for Puerto Rico.
- Disease fears: Concerns about outbreaks of disease following natural disasters are often overblown, but with so many Puerto Ricans lacking access to safe drinking water, four deaths are being investigated as possible cases of a disease spread by animals’ urine, reports the Associated Press’s Michael Melia.
- How bad can it get?: For CNN, Ray Sanchez and AJ Willingham have reporting from the ground and an overview of what lies ahead for the island’s residents.
Other notable stories
- “I’ve covered conflict for 20 yrs. During this story, I called my wife & said: I just had worst interview of my life.” That’s what The New York Times’s Jeffrey Gettleman tweeted alongside his devastating story about atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
- As fires continue to sweep across California, The San Francisco Chronicle’s Erin Allday has the story of one of the 31 who has been confirmed dead.
- The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino has a difficult piece on how men like Harvey Weinstein implicate their victims in their attacks.
- For CJR, Trevor Timm says Trump’s threats to punish NBC with government regulation amount to a constitutional violation.
- The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher has a long look at the making of Sean Hannity.
- Jeff Bezos, no fan of unions, is trying to rewrite labor contracts at The Washington Post, reports HuffPost’s Paul Blumenthal.