Is it that we don't have 28 people die like we had in the Camilla tornadoes in 2000 to get people upset? Is that why Albany Georgia's tragedy is ignored? Or is it just that the news media is so busy covering reality DC that they don't have time to report on a storm that left 8,000 homes without power and my Facebook sources tell me thousands of homes damaged. With 9 tornadoes – that's right NINE TORNADOES and 3 thunderstorm wind events reported by the National Weather service, I'm at a loss trying to understand why this isn't national news. Without power for days, we have cold weather coming, and many impoverished people are going to suffer greatly. This is the fourth poorest city in America! But if you turn on your TV, I doubt many of you will hear about it. And this complete lack of reporting is a problem. In this blog post I'm going to share why this is a problem and what we can do to help the survivors in this growing disaster.
“This is undoubtedly the biggest unreported storm I have ever seen.” – Todd Taylor, a Samaritan's Purse Program Manager in Albany, GA via their Facebook page.
I've embedded a film below, but it is from Facebook and some of you may not be able to see it.
When I got up Tuesday morning, I turned on the news, and heard about “some storms.” Some traffic lights were out. I did not grasp the magnitude of what happened. People at school were talking about the tragedy, and I thought,
Surely, if it were that bad, the news would have reported it, and the national news would have picked it up.
Nope. Mainstream media is too busy covering reality DC these days to talk about what truly matters.
As we saw during the election, the media seemed to be too busy manipulating us to inform us about things that matter to us average everyday folks. They'd rather get us upset about something over which we have no control than tell us about something where we can actually help. And they've failed yet again.
But you know who hasn't failed? Mainstreet media. That's you and that's me. And we CAN make mainstream media notice if we all bring awareness to this. In fact, I'm hearing that MOST people are hearing the depth of tragedy through Facebook and NOT the media. And the media wants to know why they're irrelevant.
[callout]I've asked for photographs and stories and Mainstreet media has filled my inbox with the pictures I'm sharing as part of this post. Feel free to add yours. Also note, while I'm using the hashtag #prayforalbany there are many towns impacted. I've heard from Newton, Meigs, Leary, and Baconton about extensive damage. This is a storm disaster of massive proportions. [/callout]
Why Media Coverage Matters
I learned the depth of the tragedy from my church Facebook page when I got home from school at 4pm Tuesday. That was when we started collecting water to respond to the desperate and growing need.
If we don't know, we don't go. It is that simple.
You see, I have personal experience with storms before. In 2000, Kip and I were head of the Mitchell County Volunteer Command Center. On February 14, 2000, three tornadoes ripped through my tiny hometown damaging over 200 homes. We also had a terrible loss of life and 28 people died. It was something none of us would ever want to relive. There are no fond memories. We only feel the pain. But, just like in Albany, the entire community pulled together to respond to that storm.
The second day in Camilla, a big truck from Alabama full of bulldozers and heavy equipment pulled up and said,
“Where do you need us. We're here to help, but we're not here to charge.”
Because of extensive national news coverage, there were people everywhere coming out to help. Random strangers just showed up, helped, and left. We didn't even know all their names. They knew that there was a need. That is what average everyday Americans do — we show up to help our neighbors.
That is if we know they need help. I've never seen anyone show up for a disaster they didn't know about first.
What I Saw When We Delivered Water in Albany
Well, yesterday I wanted my students and I to be those random strangers who helped. We gave out flats of water in public housing projects near Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany. To my surprise, I saw a tragedy that far exceeded the damage I saw in Camilla in 2000.
And I didn't see one truck from the media. So, here's our truck. My Mainstreet media friends and I are telling you what really is happening.
There are lots of trees down. But bigger than this, many people are without power. Many very impoverished homes have had refrigerators out since Monday and won't have power for perhaps weeks.
Just because you don't have a tree in your yard doesn't mean the storm hasn't upended your life.
Why Media Silence Hurts Good People When Tragedies Strike
Here's the problem when the media ignores a tragedy:
- If people don't know, people don't go.
- If people don't know, the money doesn't show.
- It people don't know, it takes longer to get better.
In my experience, when dealing with a disaster – nothing makes it better. Your only hope is to help people get better, faster. That way, you don't have people feeling hopeless, getting depressed, and acting out in their pain.
Simply put, you want to help as many people as possible get back their life as soon as possible.
How the News Media Is Letting Us Down
The city of Albany is mobilizing and helping itself. But, even here I heard a local news reporter joking that she hoped for snow on Saturday. I yelled at the TV,
You have people who have been without power since Monday, who are living in freezing cold apartments with children, and you're wishing for snow?
The complete and utter inability of the media to share what's important in this world anymore befuddles me.
There used to be a time when news reporters reported on what was important. Additionally, they felt they had a responsibility to speak the truth. Now, I think they're more interested in reality DC than they are in speaking the truth about what's happening out in America.
Well, average America needs a responsible media, and guess what. You and I now have a job we were never intended to play.
Now last night I tweeted all of the mainstream media and of course didn't hear a tweet back. I mean for all they know I'm just a random person with 134,000 Twitter followers.
My life was not made better last night when they went in and re-shared the live stream of the abuse of a special needs boy by four people. I can do nothing about what happened but be shocked and upset. Instead, why didn't they share about the damage in Albany, Georgia and how they need help? The cold is coming and people are still without power.
Obviously, I can't do anything about mainstream media, but I can do something about main street media. I can because I'm part of it.
Who am I? I'm a small town schoolteacher who some people read. And the people who read my blog aren't just slacktivists; I attract ACTIVISTS. I attract people who DO SOMETHING to make the world a better place. We don't whine about it; we do something about it.
So, let's get busy.
Calling Out Main Street Media
So, dear reader, I now dub you, “mainstreet media.” You have a job to do.
1 – Tell People About the Tragedy And Ask for Their Support
Tell people what is happening in Albany, Georgia.
But I will ask this if you share this blog post, please share one of the links to below first. It is more important to share about how to help than this post.
- Samaritan's Purse Disaster Response Volunteer Page asks for people aged 14 and up to volunteer and help. Get up a group of people and come to help. In Camilla, we had people working for months – so even if it is later in January — COME. I promise they'll need you. MOBILIZE!
- Share the live streams from Sherwood Baptist Church – they are a source of information I trust and will tell you what you can do. As of this post, on January 6 and 7 they need bottled water at the old Coke plant at 925 Pine Avenue, Albany. They are giving it out to those in need who have NO WATER. (Please check the stream for current needs.)
- Use the hashtag #prayforalbany and hope that we can make it trend to get mainstream media to DO THEIR JOB!
2 – Donate money to help
Not everyone can come. Support your favorite disaster relief organization, or I just spoke to my pastor, Michael Catt, and if you donate through my church and designate for disaster relief benevolence that 100% of your money will go to help.
People who care, share. We share the truth. We share things that matter. People matter.
Now, get out there and do something.
Is this the Only Tragedy We're Not Hearing About?
And when you know the tragedy in your local area that is not reported, it is your responsibility to report on it and to tell people. You now have a new job in addition to all the other jobs you have.
You must make sure that what you share is true, accurate, but also that it is stuff that that truly matters. Because it seems the people who have that job right now aren't.
[callout]Let me also be super clear. The people in South Georgia are working hard and coming together. But many people even here in South Georgia are still uninformed as to just what has happened. We are literally finding out more and more via Facebook daily and shocked to realize that this story isn't being told except to each other on Facebook. I just see a stark contrast in how the media covered the three 2000 tornadoes in Camilla and the nine South Georgia had on Monday night. I find no valid explanation. [/callout]
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I praise your article just wanted to correct one fact. That picture listed as an apartment complex is really the back side of the Hamilton Relay building, which is a business. Not apartments
My friend messaged me earlier today and I fixed it. Honestly it was so torn up it was hard to tell!
Hi, this is just to help you be more successful. Mainstream media tends to be secular. You might want your appeal to be more secular. I’m saying this at risk of being misunderstood and attacked but it’s not necessarily that mainstream media is godless but that they don’t want to alienate anyone. To be honest atheists are among the most ethical people in the world and they have grave concern for people’s plight and the plight of the poor. Some people also see politicians passing legislation that hurts the poor and suffering while purporting to be very religious. It can be incredibly confusing.
Same goes for schools and government, if they are secular fewer feel alienated and more people bring their energy and enthusiasm to causes that should concern us all. Now in person, I don’t think good honest people discriminate, but from afar, when people don’t know one another, religion can both bind and alienate. I hope that makes sense. Good luck getting a broader reach.
-A fellow teacher
Sure. Well, this one was just written as I felt it should be. These things are secular, however it is important to me to stay true to my own authentic voice. It costs me quite frequently but for me, it is part of being authentic. Thanks for your points.
Thank you for a great article – it makes a very good point. There was only one thing I would change – I found your “dead baby in a ditch” comment to be very insensitive. Being a parent of a current high school child, I know that when writing you’re supposed to have a good attention-getting sentence in your first paragraph to grab the readers’ attention, but I’m afraid yours was a bit over the line. I say this because presumably it was in reference to an event that really happened to a real baby with real parents? If that’s the case, I can only imagine the hurt that would resurface if those parents came across your article and saw the day their lives were ripped apart being used so flippantly to make a point. Overall I liked and agreed with what you had to say, but to be honest, your opening paragraph stuck in my craw a bit :(
Thanks for that Kristie. I was very angry when I wrote this and it is horrible. It was horrible. But that is how I feel about our media. They report on horrible horrible things and do not report on helping us help people. It is horrible but it is true. Our news media wants to shock us but not inform us. I will pray over this suggested change and talk to my husband and trusted friends to see if a change is warranted. I totally get what you are saying and truly prayed and read it to my husband — it is how I feel about the state of media today. It is truth. Without horrible things, the news media stays away and it shouldn’t be that way. I appreciate your thoughts and will consider this afternoon. I do totally understand where you are coming from.
Ok Kristie, I have tweaked the opening sentence. The truth is- that day was one that all of our lives were ripped apart, nothing about the Camilla tornadoes or Albany storm is flip to me. It is as serious as it comes. Our media is doing a grave disservice to us because they don’t report on things like this so good people can come to help. I apologize that I came across as insensitive. I love children and people deeply and also want to teach by example. I always appreciate comments like yours. I hope you’ll support the efforts going on across South Georgia.
Volunteers are great and media coverage gets the attention of the world outside. But you need to be calling elected officials. You pay tax dollars for emergency services just like any other town. And I pay tax dollars to support emergencies in other places too. Call your elected State Government Representatives, contact the Governors office. Call your House Representatives and your Senators and demand action.
Governor Nathan Deal
Georgia State Rep: Winfred J Dukes
229.432.9891 – Office
229.883.2188 – Fax
Georgia State Senator: Freddie Powell Sims
Phone: (404) 463-5259
Fax: (404) 463-2279
US Representative: Sanford D. Bishop Jr.
If they don’t respond, remember you get to vote again.
I live in Camilla so I am not impacted. From the Camilla tornadoes, I learned that pretty much in disasters that 90 per cent of money and volunteers come in the first few weeks. There are feet on the ground doing their best here. This article is intended to call out our media, which to this point in many of our opinions is doing a terrible job.
Thanks for that update Vicki – I knew you didn’t mean for it to come off that way. You felt passionately about this particular subject and I know sometimes things don’t come out 100% right when we’re trying to put those feelings into words. I hope your message will inspire change and further help those in need.
I hope so too. My prayer has been for God to use this to send the people of Albany the money and help they need. I know mainstream media can’t cover everything but I do feel this one is an oversight. I also know our local tv is working overtime to cover. My audience is really national and international. I want people to know that even if they don’t hear about it on the news- this place needs help. Thanks for commenting!
Blessings on you , those others who care and share, and especially on all those affected by the storms. I’ve sent my donation to Samaritan’s Purse, and will continue to pray . Thank you, Ann
Thank you so much Ann!
I too have been surprised about lack of coverage ,very few photos in papers .
I agree but I will say this. This town is behaving admirably and working together in unprecedented ways. As someone pointed out tonight it could end up being a blessing in disguise to not have media here so much, however this town is going to need many resources to feed all this kids out of school another week. And they are still trying to get more money out of FEMA.
Bless you Vicki! Thanks for sharing, I truly had no idea. With the recent tragedy our area endured, the wildfires, I feel blessed we had the exposure Dolly Parton gave us to aid in recovery. It most definitely takes the squeaky wheel to get the word out.
Prayers for Albany!
I share your displeasure with the mainstream media. It is a tremendous shame that some tragedies are elevated over others due to politics or news cycles. Keep up the great work!
Great job, Vicki! Inspiring! I certainly share in your frustration that economics and a catering to issues that matter most to the target demographics of news network sponsors seems to take precedence over reporting news that truly matters to everyday people. I like your solution, too: empowering the same everyday people to help spread the news and make a difference. Perhaps we need an app for that? ;)
Teacher at Colegio Lumen
Perhaps we do, my friend!