Living in a beach community, the words “hurricane season” are not nearly as ominous and foreboding as one may believe. “Hurricane season” can roughly be translated into “media season,” as nonstop speculation plagues the news cycle all day for over a week in advance.
But what happens when all that hype actually comes true?
The answer can be found right now by looking at New York City, the place where local residents are tough, stubborn and only believe what you can prove right in front of their face.
Hurricane Sandy, which has by now been dubbed a “superstorm,” has made her presence felt all over the East Coast in recent days. The full extent of Sandy’s wrath was arguably felt hardest in the Big Apple, where the storm surge set a New York record of 13 feet. The Rockaways, which is a peninsula in south Queens hugged between the east coast Atlantic and the Jamaica Bay, was nearly drowned out entirely by the merging bodies of water. Fires sprang sporadically all across the peninsula, having decimating effects all the way from Breezy Point (the absolute west) to the end of Far Rockaway (the absolute east).
In an effort to diagnose the areas of the city that would be affected the greatest by Hurricane Sandy, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg designated specific labels, Zones A, B and C. The Rockaways, which includes Breezy Point, was dubbed Zone A by the mayor. The mayor issued a mandatory evacuation of Zone A by no later than 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28. The procedure seemed frightfully familiar to the precautions taken for Hurricane Irene last August, where Bloomberg ordered the first mandatory evacuation in New York’s history.
The media speculation surrounding this year’s storm seemed frightfully familiar as well. Not only to last year’s coverage of Irene but also the 2009 coverage of Bill, the coverage of the 2012 presidential election, the 2008 presidential election and so on. The mainstream media outlets have a way of flooding our lives with nonstop coverage of whatever they can get their hands on. To add to it, a lot of times it is blatantly skewed information from so-called experts. This overexposure to excessive information creates an atmosphere of fog that blurs the distinction between what is true and what is false.
The issue arises as a condition of our society. It is a society saturated with nonstop media, utilizing every form of communication available: TV, newspapers, radios, Facebook, Twitter. They all become flooded with information on the same topic, depending on what happens to be going on at the given moment. It becomes very difficult to sort through all the clutter. This is particularly evident with new forms of communication, i.e. social media, where it is often difficult to verify what information is reliable.
This phenomenon, call it “the reporter who cried wolf” effect, takes credibility away from the news when reporters need it most. The public becomes so accustomed to hearing the hype surrounding a certain event that eventually it becomes overwhelming and is shrugged off.
Case in point: Hurricane Sandy. Due to the huge media spectacles that arise every year surrounding storms, many people did not take maximum precaution this year and are now feeling devastating effects. The current presidential campaign further illustrates my point. People tend to forget that every four years there is a political slugfest pointing out the pros and cons of each candidate and everybody they have ever had a cup of coffee with.
The reporter who cried wolf is making it increasingly difficult for people to use their best judgment. Whether it is concerning the weather, politics, what to eat or what to wear, the media has taken a firm stance in shaping your mind whether you realize it or not. Try to see through the cloud of media injected information fogging your perception and make decisions that are based on legitimate information that suit your own best interests.