A friend in Oakland, CA, wrote yesterday, telling me the smoke is so thick in the bay area that he can’t go outside for more than twenty or thirty minutes before his eyes and throat start to burn. Concerned, I got up this morning and turned to Morning Joe on MSNBC, and then CNN, hoping to get the latest on the wildfires that continue to ravage the nation’s most populous state. What I saw was disappointing.
CNN, gave the story all of two minutes, with no context at all. No word on what, if anything, continues to burn or where. Nothing about the air quality over vast portions of the state, even in areas like Oakland, which isn’t near a burn area. At least I don’t think there’s any active fire close to Oakland at this time. It’s difficult to tell, with such poor coverage. Not a single frame of video from Southern California for example, where fires continue to burn, and even now, evacuees are just being allowed to return to their homes.
CNN did do a live interview with California Congressman, Ted Lieu, but not to discuss the wildfires. They brought him out to talk about whether Nancy Pelosi will be able to regain the position of Speaker of the House. Congressman Lieu, forced the issue. The first words out of his mouth were to express concern for the people of California and to thank first responders who continue fighting the fires. The anchors immediately changed the subject back to Nancy Pelosi and said not another word about the wildfires. It almost felt as though they were afraid to talk about it. Is California on another planet?
Two minutes for such a massive disaster impacting so many people? Why? East coast bias? Is that why the major news outlets all but ignore California, even though more than 600 people are now missing or unaccounted for with the number of dead from the Camp Fire at 63? The Camp Fire in northern Calif alone, has destroyed more than 11,000 structures including 9,700 homes and 290 businesses. 52,000 people had to evacuate as the fire has now grown to 140,000 acres. Conditions, apparently meaning the wind, temperature and low humidity, are expected to grow worse over the coming weekend.
According to one source, containment of the Camp Fire, is at something around 40%. I really don’t know, from watching CNN and MSNBC, as they said nothing about containment or where the fire is still burning, or whether anyone or anything continues to be threatened. If MSNBC is going to cover nothing but politics, okay, fine. But I do seem to remember them providing hurricane coverage? And CNN? There is no excuse for what CNN is failing to cover if they wish to be considered a news outlet offering something more than political punditry. Remember their hurricane coverage? They were all over it, but then, that was an east coast story, wasn’t it?
In Southern California, down by Los Angeles, the Woolsey Fire, has now grown to something above 98,000 acres. Some residents are being allowed to return to their homes in the Malibu, Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley areas. Containment here, is said to be around 57%.
To their credit, NBC, did send Lester Holt to California, but their reporting lacked context, presumably because they no longer have the kind of fully-staffed bureaus they once had in the west, and understanding the scope and scale of California is not something you can pick up in a few hours at the scene. It’s not the reporter’s fault, it’s the companies they work for.
Imagine more than six hundred people unaccounted for with 52,000 evacuated and smoke so thick that you can’t go outdoors, and all of it happening from New York City down to South Carolina. Think the networks would be giving that more coverage than they’re now giving California, our most populous state with the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world? They’d be all over it, 24 hours a day seven days a week. Like they cover hurricanes or winter storms that hit the east coast.
Don’t tell me the east coast media has no anti-west coast bias. I have friends in California and I think about it every day the state continues to burn. Calif should get considerably more coverage tomorrow when Donald Trump arrives dragging the White House press corps with him. I wonder if he’ll throw paper towels to the evacuees?