Puerto Rico Is Dying

Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico in critical condition. Much of the island is drenched, buildings are damaged, food and water are becoming scarce and hospitals are running on generators with limited amounts of fuel. According to USA Today, at least 3.4 million citizens are in need of power. This is a complete catastrophe, yet Puerto Rico has received little to no media coverage.

During the week of the category four storm, the media failed to cover Puerto Rico and instead focused on unimportant topics such as Kylie Jenner’s unconfirmed pregnancy.

Snapchat put Kylie Jenner’s apparent pregnancy as their top story and news about Puerto Rico as their fifth. On Twitter, “#kylieispregnant” was the number one trending topic.

Cable news networks didn’t do Puerto Rico justice either. Instead of informing the public on the aftermath of the hurricane, national news stations spent a majority of their broadcast time discussing topics including the NFL national anthem controversy and Jared Kushner’s inappropriate use of a private email account.

According to the Washington Post, Sunday’s top five broadcast and cable networks’ news programs covered Puerto Rico for less than one minute. To make matters worse, popular news stations such as ABC, CBS and FOX chose to not cover Puerto Rico at all during their broadcast.

“A curtain is slowly being lifted on this disaster, revealing more and more of the suffering and the dire straits on this island,” Lester Holt said on one of his NBC “Nightly News” broadcasts.

Puerto Rico received a small fraction of the media’s attention compared to the amount of coverage Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida received. These storms were not only consistently discussed on news stations, but updates about Harvey and Irma could easily be found all over social media. Unlike Hurricane Maria, these storms were given immediate and continuous attention including live video of the storm itself.

Lindsay Voss who is half Puerto Rican and a junior at California Lutheran University, says she is bothered by the lack of coverage on Hurricane Maria.
“People are fighting for survival right now,” Voss said, “Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. We are just as important as Houston or Florida.”
Voss feels that Puerto Rico should receive more attention in the media so people are more aware of what is going on.

“Because it’s an island, everything has to be brought to them,” Voss said, “We should be focusing on helping them and getting them the supplies they need for survival rather than talking about the NFL or Kylie Jenner.”
According to Brian Resnick, a science reporter for VOX, “Maria was a slightly smaller storm, but was far more devastating because it charted a course directly over Puerto Rico, hit near its peak intensity, and passed around 25 miles away from San Juan, the capital, which is home to about 400,000 people.”

The lack of coverage on Puerto Rico, according to CNN, could be blamed on the “hurricane fatigue” caused by the great amount of coverage on Irma and Harvey. However, this should not be a reason for journalists to avoid covering the story. Millions of people were affected by the crisis and citizens who have family on the island feel that Puerto Rico isn’t receiving the help or attention it needs.

“People are dying in this country,” said Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, at a news conference. “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us… you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.”

The response from media outlets regarding Puerto Rico is a huge disappointment. As someone who aspires to write to inform others, I hope that in the future, journalists will take into account the importance and impact a story has before choosing to ignore it.

Christie Kurdys