May 25, 2008

NPR's coverage of the Sichuan earthquake

Is there anyone else who wishes that the general public could nominate entries for the Peabody Awards for electronic media? National Public Radio's coverage of the Sichuan earthquake has demonstrated what a treasure the organization is. All Things Considered hosts Robert Siegel and Melissa Block were in Sichuan province so NPR could air features on Chinese society well before the Olympics, with a blog centered on Andrea Hsu's coverage of life in Chengdu. Block and Hsu were interviewing a Christian priest when the earthquake interrupted them, and the NPR staff spent the next 10 days covering the aftermath of the disaster in a way that is unmatched by any other North American news outlet.

I've listened to NPR since I was a child, and my 13-year-old son is now a news junkie, insisting that we turn on All Things Considered when I pick him up at school. Occasionally, I get irritated by this, since I have a parents' desire to talk with my children about what happens in school. But if it weren't for my son's insistence that we turn on NPR the day of the earthquake, I would not have heard Block's report May 12 from one of the many schools that simply collapsed, crushing hundreds of students my son's age. We listened in silence on the way home, horrified at the destruction and yet still glad that we were hearing about it from someone as professional as Block. Apparently NPR heard from hundreds of listeners praising the coverage, and I think what made NPR's coverage unique is that it personalized the quake's effects without sensationalizing them. In doing so, Block, Siegel, and the rest of the NPR team turned the audience from voyeurs into neighbors.

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Posted in Personal on May 25, 2008 11:10 AM |