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Indonesia's Tsunami Lost In The News Cycle?

(Getty Images/Bay Ismoyo)
As the conflict between Israel and Lebanon continues to grab lots of headlines, the story of the recent tsunami to hit Java, Indonesia, seems to have gotten a bit lost in the news cycle. On Monday, when the tsunami hit, the story was mentioned briefly on network morning news programs, when estimates put the death toll at five or six people. By the evening newscasts Monday night, the toll was estimated to be more than 80 people dead, warranting a mention on ABC's "World News Tonight" and NBC's "Nightly News." The CBS "Evening News" did not cover the tsunami. By last night, however, the death toll had risen to 341, and all three evening newscasts briefly mentioned the story in voice-overs. Today, the death toll has risen again -- to 531 -- and the tsunami has been followed by an earthquake in Indonesia's capital, Pangandaran.

Newspaper coverage hasn't been particularly extensive either – since Monday, neither The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times have carried stories about the Indonesian tsunami on their front pages.

The media was lauded for its extensive coverage of the 2004 tsunami disaster that killed hundreds of thousands of people throughout South and Southeast Asia. One of the salient issues that coverage revealed was the lack of an early warning system for earthquakes and tsunamis throughout that region of the world – a system that could have perhaps limited that tragedy. The Los Angeles Times noted in its article today that "[t]he government had planned to establish a national tsunami warning system after a massive tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra and several other nations in December 2004, killing more than 220,000 people. More than half the victims were in the Indonesian province of Aceh. But the warning system project has stalled." Michael Kocher, country manager for the Indonesian Rescue Committee, told The New York Times, ''This surely points to the need to establish an effective warning system. Surely, this isn't the last tsunami we'll see in Indonesia.''' While there are clearly other international crises worthy of the media attention that are tying up the press's resources, the recent tragedy in Indonesia reveals a story worthy of more than just a mention.

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