Saturday, August 18, 2007


On any given day, an average of 148,000 people will die. That means over a million people have died in the last week. Nearly 5 million have died since around this time last month, which, incidentally, was exactly when we were briefly bombarded with the news that 199 people were killed in a Brazilian airliner crash.

Other deaths and possible deaths we've heard about since then include the 11 victims found so far in the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis; the six miners missing and three rescuers killed in a Utah coal mine; hundreds dead in the earthquake in Peru. To a somewhat lesser extent, we've also heard about 100-plus troops and the 2,000-plus civilians reportedly killed in the Iraq war in the last month. There was also news of the passing of several celebrities, including evangelist Tammy Faye Messner, talk-show host Merv Griffin and baseball's Phil Rizzuto.

If there was a story each day about those who died from lack of health care coverage, it would be more important to our leaders. We choose to ignore mundane bad things. In a sense, they aren't "news". Another person got an infection, didn't see a doctor because of lack of insurance and died today most likely.

Isn't this a fatal flaw in journalism though? By focusing on random events as opposed to systemic failures, we are entertained, but not empowered.