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Adventure Blog

On Hype: From Weather to Global Capitals

Buzz Poole
08/20/2011 - 00:00

You don’t need me to tell you that last week was a rumbly and rainy one along the eastern seaboard. I was in a Brooklyn office as the tremors of the magnitude 5.8 rolled north from Mineral, Virginia. The office faces the Manhattan Bridge and is close enough to hear the trains that travel across it, so at first nothing seemed that out of the ordinary. But as the floor and desk started to bow, memories of living in California made it clear that this was an earthquake – exciting!

The media had its fun covering the story. Was the Washington Monument leaning? No (though it did crack, and is now closed). The west coast got in plenty of jabs at the overly frightened east coast office workers congregated outside their evacuated buildings. And now we all know more about Mineral, Virginia.

Coverage of the earthquake, which thankfully caused very little damage, faded as the media began to bang the drum about Hurricane Irene. Unlike an earthquake, we can see hurricanes coming and being prepared is essential, as is heeding the advice of experts. North Carolina and Virginia got lashed by the wind and rain; New Jersey and Vermont continue to combat flooding. Hurricane or tropical storm, Irene was no laughing matter. The constant media haranguing, however, is another story. There is no doubt that Irene demanded respect, especially along the Atlantic coastline, but the apocalyptic predictions fueled by the talking heads don’t aid in being prepared, at least in my book.

My wife and I attended a wedding this past weekend in Luray, Virginia, not far from Mineral, and definitely within the predicted striking distance of Irene. Before heading to Luray we spent a night in DC to see friends. After a lovely, relaxing evening, we made the mistake of watching the news, and doubled down Friday morning on more of the hype. We both considered bailing on the wedding and heading home to weather the storm. I knew all the windows were closed but were the air conditioners secured enough to withstand ferocious wind gusts? What about the slightly cracked bathroom window? Would we return to eight inches of water on the floor? What if the roof caved in under the weight of pooling rain? What if . . .?

We both recognized that the storm was very real, and that the media has this nasty habit of exaggerating the facts, especially with these sorts of stories where everything is based on speculation. So we went to the wedding and had a grand old time, reconnecting with friends and checking out the Luray Caverns. Yes, it rained, but the wind added more of a southern gothic quality to the wedding than a scary element. Yes, talk of the storm dominated conversations but it was more about camaraderie than dire predictions.

I guess this is all just a long-winded way of saying that the news can help us prepare for natural disasters and be informed after them. But we shouldn’t always believe what we are told just because it comes from a media outlet. Take the hotly debated chart from More Intelligent Life found above:

As the comment thread for But that’s hype for you – getting the message out there is more important than the message’s actual content.

<a href"http:="" moreintelligentlife.com="" content="" ideas="" john-parker="" what-capital-world?page="0%2C1&quot;">What cities would you like to see included on this list of global centers?

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