The devastating earthquake in Haiti has garnered 24-hour news coverage and deservedly so. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12 has killed an estimated 200,000 people. The world’s attention should be concentrated on helping this country back to its feet. The media coverage however has unfortunately been one-sided.
With headlines like “Obama Pledges Aid to Haiti” from The New York Times and “Nations set differences aside to expedite relief to Haiti” from USA Today, a majority of the stories on TV, in print, and on the Internet has focused on the aid that is coming in to Haiti. Stories about how much George Clooney’s telethon has raised and how foreign countries have contributed, peppered with phrases such as "Haiti – the poorest country in the western hemisphere” have dominated the news cycle. Yet do these types of stories - these angles and catch phrases - guide us towards what is necessary to understand what is happening in Haiti and how we can help? Are there other stories that we are missing by being so focused on the aid angle?
Haiti is an example, albeit a dramatic one, of missing voices and missing points of view. Perhaps this is simply mirroring the narrow-minded direction our country has taken in recent years. With the rising popularity of partisan media outlets, it has become too easy for us to be selective in the information and news that we consume.
The danger of living in a society where conservatives only watch FOX and liberals only read the Huffington Post is reflected in our political system and electorate: hyper partisanship that has led to an impasse in our government. Instead of listening and debating, perhaps even finding common ground and coming to a compromise, both democrats and republicans are acting like five year-old children who stomp and cry until they get their way. The lack of moderate democrats and republicans in Congress is an unfortunate result.
It is easy for us to chide lawmakers for not participating in cross-partisan dialogue. But how often do we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and seek a point of view that challenges our beliefs and opinions? In order to fully understand what is happening in Haiti, we may have to seek information that we traditionally turn away from. For example, instead of reading the same stories about American aid, let's also read about the role that America has played in making Haiti "the poorest country in the western hemisphere." We, like our lawmakers, need to seek out the counterpoint, develop a fuller picture. More importantly, we must try to actively understand those opposing opinions.
If we cannot or refuse to, we certainly cannot blame our representatives for the same faults.