This morning I called family and friends in Puerto Rico, all of whom are to varying degrees frantic and worried about Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane with winds at 180 mph and gusts at never-behind seen 215 mph. The monster storm is just a day away from destroying people’s lives and properties in the Caribbean.
But as large as Irma looms on the radar, it’s as if the storm doesn’t exist in local media outlets. Millions of lives are in danger, and in Western Massachusetts alone there are hundreds of thousands of residents from the Caribbean islands, who visit home or who have people in the trajectory of Irma, but neither the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Masslive or the Boston Globe are paying attention.
What the men and women — mostly monolingual white men — who head news rooms consider important is the geography of borders only they can see. For them, Hurricane Irma is not a story unless it gets closer to Florida. This is an example of provisional “journalism” aka small minded editors.
The result is that many people who are tied to weather apps and in constant communication with their people in the Caribbean with updates, once more receive affirmation on how powerfully irrelevant local media is.
And how irrelevant we are to local media.
National media is covering Irma, if only as a threat to Florida, a second destructive storm to enter the United States days after Hurricane Harvey left its heartbreaking mark in Houston.
This is also another example of what institutional racism looks like. The powers that be have decided that there is no story to tell, even as millions in the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, handle the impending horror that is getting closer to them. They are thinking that they will lose everything, all their pictures, their books, their furniture, their homes, maybe even their lives.
Families in Western Massachusetts offer support, go over the to-do lists with them again and again, just to be sure that they are as safe as possible. It’s all happening outside the hearing range of local media. Even as it not surprising how tone deaf local media is, especially on issues and events in which people from multicultural communities are affected, it is no less frustrating, in 2017, to still be invisible.
A calamity named Irma is getting closer, and the local media is a million miles away.