(from washingtontimes.com) HARVEST, Ala. (AP) – The Rev. Michael Katschke is worried, but not about running out of the food, diapers and other supplies he hands out to tornado victims at the Crosswinds United Methodist Church in northern Alabama.
Mr. Katschke is worried about the rest of the country just moving on. “They’re going to forget us just like they forgot about Japan,” he said.
The search for bodies is still going on in parts of the tornado-ravaged South, but the country’s worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina already is fading from the public consciousness, pushed aside first by the royal wedding and now by Osama bin Laden’s death.
That means donations and out-of-state volunteers likely will drop off as the region tries to recover after tornadoes killed at least 329 people and destroyed communities across seven states.
“It depends on the news cycle, but the reality is, you generally only have three or four days” to keep the attention of the broader public, said Mickey Caison, who oversees disaster relief efforts for the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.
“Typically, when the national media moves on, that window of opportunity closes.”
Officials in Alabama, which suffered the most widespread destruction and the heaviest loss of life, are keenly aware of that. They’ve been trying to keep their state’s needs at the top of the national agenda.
That was part of the reason that Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox decided to meet with actor Charlie Sheen last week, when the former “Two and a Half Men” star toured the devastation in the college town where at least 41 people died in the storms.
“Anytime we can get national attention about the plight of Tuscaloosa, I think it’s a positive thing,” he said. “It’s important that we’re not forgotten.”
While national and local relief groups are tallying donations, many say they expect to see a sharp drop-off in contributions for tornado relief after about the first week. That loss of momentum is rarely regained.
And it makes it harder to convince donors in six months or a year that the needs are still urgent.
“When people see the images on television, they’re literally seeing 32 inches of a disaster,” Red Cross national spokeswoman Laura Howe said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how long-lasting the effects of a disaster are.”
National attention, however, doesn’t have to waver from what can turn out to be a bigger story than the disasters themselves, namely the long-term consequences, said Kelly McBride, a media ethics expert at the Poynter Institute.
But she said that once the spotlight leaves a place, it rarely returns.
“I wish the media would sustain stories on a long-term basis, and some can,” she said, pointing to ongoing coverage of Haiti following the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake. “But the challenge for a local disaster, especially if it doesn’t involve a Los Angeles or a Boston, is that there’s not going to be a lot of demand on the national news for coverage.”
Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Associated Press. Reprinted from the Washington Times for educational purposes only. Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.
1. What will happen to disaster relief as people across the country forget about the victims of April’s tornadoes in Alabama and across the south?
2. Why is it easy to forget about victims of natural disaster so quickly?
3. What are Alabama officials doing to keep their state’s needs in the public eye?
4. Why do you think Haiti’s earthquake victims have continued to stay in the national news spotlight?
5. Scan some of the articles linked to under “Background” and watch the videos under “Resources” below.
Do you think the national news should produce regular follow-up stories about disaster victims in the U.S.? Explain your answer.
In the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that moved across the south, 300 people were killed and thousands of homes and many business were destroyed.
Many people lost not only their homes, but their cars and their jobs. Read some local Alabama news articles on current needs of victims:
Read about local donations in Alabama: wkrg.com/alabama/article/are-tornado-donations-dropping-off/1206802/May-09-2011_10-12-pm.
Watch a video of how the Christian relief organization Samaritins Purse is helping tornado victims in Pleasant Grove, Alabama:
Watch a video of some of the destruction caused by the tornadoes in Pleasant Grove, Alabama:
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