Japanese disaster and the quality of news reporting

With the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan (here’s how to help) people around the world are depending on news agencies to report on what is happening on the ground in the affected areas. But at least here in the Washington, D.C. area, and especially watching the Today Show, the reporting has been generally awful. The reporters don’t seem to focus on reporting facts. The “experts” that they bring on (with a few exceptions) seem more interested in speculations that raise the level of the drama of the story–as opposed to reporting the facts. And pardon my language, but the reporters are asking people on the ground dumb fucking questions. Case in point:

The anchor on the Today Show this morning was interviewing an American living in Tokyo and asked him, “What was going through your mind when the earthquake hit?”

How is that question of any value at all? How does that question help to report the news, or help rescue organizations determine where aid is most needed? How does it do anything than ratchet up the drama of a situation that is already plenty dramatic enough? If I were in that situation and was asked that question by a national news anchor, I hope I’d have the presence of mind to answer honestly by saying, “That is a dumb question.”

My friend Alison pointed out an interview last night where special expert guests were asked if this disaster was a wrath of god, or perhaps had something to do with the gravity of the moon pulling on the Earth. As she described it, at least one of the guests, the witty and intelligent astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, rolled his eyes when this particularly moronic question was asked, and when on to point out why it was impossible for the moon to have played a role in this particular case.

People in Japan are suffering and need help. People who have friends and loved ones in Japan need facts–not hyberbole–from the media. If the various news organizations really want to perform a valuable service, they should give up the drama interviews and celebrity experts for a few days and focus on Edward R. Murrow style reporting. Everyone would benefit from that/