Friday April 1 – All News Is Local

All news is local and it stays news for local people long after the news people have moved on.

On Saturday morning March 19, I was contacted by a national news organization wanting a phone interview for a story they were writing about our efforts to get Yasue food. They texted me and asked when would be a good time. I was at breakfast with Ian and asked if we could do the interview in an hour. A few minutes later, I received their response. “Sorry. Cancel interview. U.S. just fired a missile at Libya.” Unfazed, I went back to my pancakes.

Barely a week after the earthquake and tsunami, it was clear the national media were shifting gears. I couldn’t blame them at all. All news is local. I learned that in journalism school. The national media are primarily headquartered in New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta. It’s only natural they look more often across the Atlantic than they do the Pacific. All news might be local but all news is also a business. People in the heavily populated East Coast cities generally look to the east for their news and the media were simply following good business practices by targeting the largest audience possible. In the business of national news, an attack in the Middle East trumps a triad of natural disasters in Asia.

The news in Japan was going to take a back seat to Libya. It must be an incredibly small back seat too because it only has enough space for the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. The tremendous relief and rescue efforts in Tohoku were seemingly relegated to the national media’s trunk. Soon, they’ll fit in the glove box. Then, be relegated to the ashtray.

This was not the case for Ian and I. Our local news was 3,828 miles northwest of us in Tohoku. Fortunately, many people in Hawaii were aligned with us. Unlike our national media, Hawaii has always looked more often across the Pacific. Our state’s special relationship with Japan is unrivaled and stories of what was happening there continued to lead our newspapers and TV and radio newscasts.

For those people whose local news is in Libya right now, I extend my heartfelt good wishes and empathy. I also extend this advice. Don’t expect the national media to be there for very long. Things are getting noisy in the Ivory Coast.

Are things really quieter now in Afghanistan? Or Chile? Or Haiti? These countries dominated our national news not too long ago. Did the national media lose interest, or did we? When it comes to Japan’s recovery efforts, Ian, Yasue and I are reminded every day that countless people here in Hawaii have not lost interest. Three weeks into this disaster, we still take heart that you are interested in our local news. Thank you.

HONOLULU Magazine’s owner, aio, is organizing a fundraiser for Tohoku University Hospital. Click here for details.