Hurricane Maria puts focus on Puerto Rico’s status


People on a flooded street in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 22, 2017. (Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. media coverage of Hurricane Maria — the most devastating hurricane to strike Puerto Rico in nearly a century — sparked lively conversations about the relationship between the island commonwealth and the mainland United States.

As of Tuesday the roughly 3.4 million Puerto Ricans are struggling with basic needs, notably electricity. About 80 percent of its power lines are down, according to the island’s electricity utility.

On Tuesday morning, Susanne Ramirez de Arellano, the former news director for Univision in Puerto Rico, wrote an op-ed in the Guardian saying that Puerto Ricans embraced social media for information about the destruction because they could not trust major media outlets in the U.S. to provide in-depth coverage.

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“Sadly — we were proven right. The destruction in Puerto Rico received relatively little media attention compared to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” de Arellano wrote. “Traditional broadcasters deployed a meager team of reporters. Even the Hispanic broadcasters on the mainland proved wanting in their coverage.”

According to Ramirez de Arellano, Puerto Ricans figured that their disasters “just don’t rate high enough in [the media’s] eyes.”

Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), also accused the media of falling short in its coverage — prompting the following response from CNN national correspondent Ed Lavandera Tuesday morning.

Yahoo News reached out to Indira Lakshmanan, the Newmark Chair for Journalism Ethics at the Poynter Institute, for her take on this allegation that the news media has not been covering Hurricane Maria.

“Most important, it’s not true that there hasn’t been coverage. The Weather Channel coverage has been constant, and CNN, Telemundo and Univision have been there all along,” Lakshmanan said. “The Washington Post and the New York Times and others have been there and produced amazing journalism.”

Additionally, Lakshmanan said, there are three other important things to keep in mind: the logistics of covering Puerto Rico, the sheer number of consequential stories right now and politics in Washington distracting from the island.

“The logistics of getting there if you’re not based there is hard and communications are in…

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