Sunday, May 14, 2006

Men survive Cyclone Monica and three weeks adrift at sea: No one cares

Cyclone Monica survivor, John Tabo, and family A news analysis story from last Friday really struck me. It turns out that two men and a boy survived Cyclone Monica and over three weeks stranded at sea in a dinghy off the northern coast of Queensland afterwards. At the time two different men were being rescued from a collapsed mine shaft in Tasmania. The latter story received saturation media coverage in Australia (as well as significant international coverage) whereas the former story, just as compelling in my opinion, received barely any.


I hate to point this out but the three rescued sailors are black &ndash Torres Strait Islanders – whereas the Tassie miners are not, as we well know by now. Moreover, the miners provided free advertising opportunities for various products such as *pods and s*stagen.

Here I quote the important parts of the news item that brought this to my attention. If you have a Crikey subscription you may already have read it, but if you don't hopefully Crikey won't mind another link to one of their secret pages with last Friday's news since it's three days old: Rescue! Why Torres Strait and Tasmania are worlds apart
Martin Hirst, author of Journalism Ethics: Arguments and Cases, writes:

...The racist undercurrent is pretty obvious: three black blokes from the Torres Strait don't attract the same attention as two white blokes from Tasmania. But that's only a small part of the picture. Other more important reasons flow from the media's obsession with crisis, drama and emotion-packed stories like Beaconsfield....

...When news broke that Todd and Brant were alive, the media had no choice but to enact the "disaster/rescue" game plan. On the other hand, the three Torres Strait castaways (John, John Jr and Tom) were nowhere near a convenient land base where the Winnebagos and the satellite dishes could be parked. Secondly, their rescue was not as dramatic, nor did it take so long. A helicopter went out and plucked them from the sea, with no network cameras in tow. It was all over in a brief afternoon...

...[The Torres Strait Islanders'] stories must be worth at least as much as the Beaconsfield miners' – if such things were measured by hardship, courage and incredibility. But the real measure of the story's worth is its value to advertisers, and two white boys from Tasmania are more appealing to white-bread Australia than three brave Indigenous sailors from non-mainstream northern Australia.
Now I do try and keep a little bit of a grip on the news, yet I completely missed the fact that this event had happened. Why? Well, unless you have hours and hours of spare time to cook your own food you have to eat what the public chefs cook for you, regardless of the fact the food these chefs create is often not made of fresh or quality ingredients, nor conducive to a keeping a balanced diet. But it tastes okay so we eat it.

If you missed the story like me then, for the sake of trying a different flavour and balancing your diet, check out the only news items I could find about this amazing story from Murray Island off the northern coast of Queensland. (Compare to the hundreds of news items there were about the Beaconsfield mine collapse!)
  1. Torres Strait sea rescue an 'act of God' (The Age)
  2. Men survive three weeks at sea (ABC)
  3. Three rescued from Torres Strait (Herald Sun)
  4. Beaconsfield II: trio's 22-day ordeal (SMH)
  5. Text of life (Daily Telegraph)
  6. Drei Australier dank SMS nach 22 Tagen aus Seenot gerettet (Zentralschweiz)
Image sourced from Herald Sun.
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