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Fast and Faster

Today’s media moves at light speed and misses the real stories.

By Brian W. Simpson • Illustration Suriya Silsaksom /iStock

Soon after I started as a cops reporter for a small daily newspaper in northwest Florida, all manner of criminal and tragic mayhem ensued.

My fellow reporters and editors frequently remarked on the spike in car crashes, murders, robberies, fires and so on. They called me Dr. Doom.

I had nothing to do with it, of course; I just wrote stories. Darting about Bay County in the paper’s aging, gray Ford Escort, I would roll up on a scene, pull out my reporter’s notebook and start asking questions. For some people, it was the worst day of their lives. I didn’t think enough about them, their next day, their next year.

Since then, the news has become instantaneous and relentless. Stories go live as they’re happening. The next moment it’s something else. Fast and faster.

The media plays a great short-game. But the long game? Not so much. 

Think of the Ebola epidemic. For weeks during the fall of 2014, it was impossible to avoid news stories on the outbreak. The virus caused a content explosion in U.S. and international media, including some stellar reporting by journalists onsite. As the cases mercifully dwindled, the volume of news stories plummeted. However, the virus’s impact didn’t end when the cameras and journalists decamped. The outbreak shotgunned the fabric of whole societies. Parents gone, children killed, villages shattered. Those wounds echo for decades. That impact endures, but it doesn’t make news.

I thought of all this while reading the story on Brazilian mothers whose children were born with congenital Zika syndrome. Poonam Daryani, the 2017 Johns Hopkins-Pulitzer Center Global Health Reporting Fellow, wasn’t satisfied with the news of the 2015 outbreak. She knew the story wasn’t over. More than 14,500 children in Brazil have CZS. Many will need care for the rest of their lives. Their mothers are meeting this challenge with all the courage, love and resourcefulness they have—and still they need help.

That’s a story worth telling.