Beyond the traditional ‘bad news sells’

Pix: HECTOR RETAMAL, AFP/Getty

More often than not we’ve been critical of Star. However, today we’ve something positive to say in that the paper has recently been giving coverage to Haiti. Even Utusan has.

It’s good that our local MSM are doing this after their disproportionate focus on Gaza. However, most of what they’re reporting is bad news — the cholera epidemic, the outbreaks of violence … this is unfortunately the kind of news that sells.

We’ve noticed that the most viewed online stories of the day in Star are the ones on sex, sensationalism, freak accidents and mayhem. So we’re picking up two quality articles (both of which were datelined yesterday) on Haitian politics instead.

Since there is strong rumour of snap polls to be held in Malaysia, the presidential polls in Haiti just around the corner ought to be of interest too. Sad ain’t it that instead of comparing ourselves up with the most successful countries in the world, we’re comparing down with the likes of Zimbabwe, Myanmar and the ones having “historically corrupt government”.

From the The Economist, ‘Politics in the time of cholera’

“Can an untimely but necessary election break the vicious circle in which the urgent overwhelms the important?”

SO OFTEN in  Haiti urgent problems—mudslides that bury towns, storms that wash houses out to sea or spikes in food prices—and chronic political instability have conspired to subvert efforts to lay the basis for sustained development. The earthquake last January that devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, was supposed to have changed that. It inspired promises by world leaders to put Haiti on a more solid footing, backed by pledges of billions of dollars, and an ambitious, if vague, reconstruction plan from the government. But the earthquake has made Haiti even more vulnerable: witness the escalating cholera epidemic that in the past few weeks has claimed more than 1,100 lives.

Haiti is trapped in an especially vicious circle. More than 1m people still live in squalid tent camps in or around the capital and their continued exposure to the elements and disease precipitates emergencies that distract policymakers from reconstruction and resettlement. A general election due on November 28th adds another layer of complication. Understandably, Haitians are more scared of cholera than enamoured of their politicians. A lacklustre campaign may culminate in an unusually low turnout.

The electoral authority insists that the vote will go ahead. (Continue reading here.)

From Chicago Tribune, ‘How to help Haiti’

In Haiti, it seems, things can always get worse. Already the poorest nation in the hemisphere, it has suffered a devastating earthquake, a cholera outbreak and a hurricane in less than a year.

As each misery compounded the last, relief efforts have been set back. The January earthquake killed 250,000 and left 1.3 million living in crowded tent cities with little access to medical care or clean water. That stoked the cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 and sickened an additional 18,000. Haitians considered themselves blessed that a weakened Hurricane Tomas killed only 20, but thousands more families were displaced and almost a third of the tents were destroyed.

The earthquake rubble still hasn’t been cleared from the capital of Port-au-Prince. Few houses have been rebuilt.

Think back to the days and weeks after the earthquake, when the world reached out to help Haiti. The U.S. sent more than $1 billion in emergency aid. School kids sent nickels and dimes. Doctors and construction crews and church groups headed to the island to help; some of them are still there. But Haiti isn’t back on its feet. Not even close.

What more can be done? For starters, foreign governments that pledged more than $5.3 billion to help rebuild Haiti should make good on their promises. Only about one-fifth of that money has been delivered.

The U.S. is among the nations that haven’t come through. The State Department is still haggling with Congress over how to make sure more than $1 billion intended for reconstruction isn’t hijacked by Haiti’s historically corrupt government. (Continue reading here).

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