Local News in Earthquake Country
Ask any reporter - earthquakes are great for the news business. Gut-wrenching visuals accompany heroic and tragic tales about survivors and victims alike, and the aftermath stories can go on for months. Earthquakes are inherently dramatic, demonstrating as they do the pent up power of a planet we ceaselessly exploit, but fail to predict or properly understand. No matter how much money or smarts we may have, in a minute or two, an earthquake could shatter anyone's life.
Last week, when an LA Times reporter (and the next day, a KABC reporter) called to interview me about a report we'd written last year about earthquake preparedness, I knew why: people get interested in how they can survive an earthquake when they catch a glimpse of the devastation one can cause. Give them a little taste of what has happened to people in Haiti, Chile and Taiwan, and they want to know what could happen to me and my family.
I told the KABC reporter that I thought it was great that she was doing a piece on earthquake preparedness - it's a public service to do so, as long as there's helpful information in the story - and it's actually good for the news business because earthquakes are (whether we like to admit it or not) entertaining. She quickly agreed, saying an earthquake story is "teasable" - the network can tease the hell out of any quake-related story in California, playing on people's latent fears about when the next one's a comin'.