When the Cameras Stop Rolling

January 26th, 2010, by MASON JAMAL

This post was first published at

unfortunately, is no different from the others. Tragedy strikes and the media
arrives in full occupying force. It’s the story of the moment. Everyone cares.
The information and images take up temporary residence in our collective
conscience. Our hearts go out. But, invariably, so do the lights. The bulbs
stop flashing. The cameras stop rolling. Heads stop talking. Then what?
Do we look the other way, as usual, and forget about the people of
Port-au-Prince and its surrounding provinces? Sadly enough, most of us will.

Prompted by the media, our attention and focus will turn
elsewhere; this way folks – on to the next story. Meanwhile, the death
toll will continue to soar and, for the survivors, so will the pain and
suffering. Haiti is haunted by the reality that it will be a country of
amputees for the foreseeable future, many of whom are orphaned children.

Relatively speaking, it wasn’t nearly as horrific, but the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina provides a similar case study in media attention deficit
disorder. Nearly 2,000 people died, and countless more were permanently
relocated by the natural forces of the hurricane coupled with the economic
forces of government neglect. For the poor, it’s a one-two punch in the gut.
And even though media coverage bubbled over at first, it eventually fizzled out.
And with it so did public interest. If this is how American citizens were
treated and nearly forgotten, can we really expect anything different in Haiti?

Pardon my cynicism, but human tragedy is big business for the news industry.
It’s not that members of the media don’t have hearts. It’s rather difficult not
to, even for the most hardened journalist in a situation as catastrophic as
this. But while this story has legs for now, they too will be amputated soon
enough. And will the American public care as much then when the cameras stop
rolling? Most won’t. Just as we saw with the coverage of New Orleans and
all the talk about how America will never be the same, this too shall be out of
sight and out of mind. Then what?

Mason Jamal blogs for AOL Black Voices, as well as his own
You can also find him on Twitter @masonsays.

Last modified: May 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm