Anorak News | Media Plays Tabloid Bingo In The Sumatran Earthquake

Media Plays Tabloid Bingo In The Sumatran Earthquake

by | 1st, October 2009

front-pages1AN earthquake hits western Indonesia, near Sumatra. Much destruction. The next day a second tremor hits the region. Many dead. How many? Well, big natural disasters are stories told in numbers of dead.

No report is equipped without the fact that a tsunami generated by a magnitude-9.1 earthquake off northern Sumatra in December 2004 left about 220,000 people dead.

Let’s see these jnew numbers. Eyes down for Tabloid Bingo:


“Two powerful earthquakes struck Sumatra, Indonesia, leaving at least 200 dead. Less than a day earlier, a quake in the South Pacific spawned a tsunami that has claimed more than 120 lives.”LA Times:

Not bad, but the LA Times’ figures also include the number of dead in American Samoa, which was hit by a tsunami when another earthquake, unconnected by anything but time to the Sumatran disaster (it struck one day earlier). Can these figures be topped?


The confirmed death toll on the Samoan islands last night stood at 119 but that is expected to rise dramatically in the next few days.Mirror

Maybe. But the big numbers are in Indonesia, and it is to there that the media looks.


Indonesia quake toll soars past 400CNN

200 / 464

At least 200 people are thought to have died in the regional capital Padang – the area worst hit by the first quake – with thousands still trapped under collapsed buildings.

The death toll in yesterday’s quake rose to more than 200 people, Priyadi Kardono, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency, said by phone in Jakarta. The agency said it couldn’t confirm a report by Agence France-Presse that 464 people were killed.Bloomberg


Sumatra quake death toll nears 500SBS


Geologists worried that the Indonesian city of Padang, where Wednesday’s quake left upwards of 1,000 people feared dead, was vulnerable to more quakes and tsunamis however. Times

More than 1000

Sky News: South of the area hit by an earlier tremor which left more than 1,000 feared people dead. – Sky


Thousands feared dead after Sumatra quakeRadio Australia


Padang lies on the same fault line as Indonesia’s Aceh province, which was devastated in the 2004 tsunami with 130,000 dead. Telegraph

Steady on, Daily Telegraph’s Aislinn Laing and Alastair Jamieson, let’s not get over excited.

How does the media make sense of a disaster? It doesn’t. It plays Tabloid Bingo and goes for the numbers.

If any papers does get a rein on its enthusiasm it is the Mirror which leads with “SWEPT AWAY – Brit tot dead as he’s dragged off beach in tsunami terror.”

One child dies. And that’s about as much grief as anyone can take in…

Posted: 1st, October 2009 | In: Key Posts, Reviews Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink