Last month marked the half-year anniversary since Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake. Aside from the small uptick in coverage at the milestone, the eyes of the world have largely turned elsewhere: oil leaks, soccer matches, November elections. Of course, this was all but inevitable. The 24-hour news cycle is fueled by “new,” and tales of ongoing struggle, grinding poverty, and a less-than-hoped-for rebuilding are anything but new.
There’s certainly good reason for frustration at the reality every news programmer knows all too well: news consumers rarely remain interested in other people’s tragedy for more than a few months, at most. Such is human nature, as much a testimony to evil in our world as Haiti’s earthquake itself. The truth is, if we tried to sustain concern for every tragedy we’ve ever seen on TV, we’d melt like cheese on a stovetop. So, as the media’s conveyor belt of heartbreaking stories rolls on, we are left making uneasy peace with an emotional journey that looks like an EKG: long stretches of numbed apathy spiked by occasional moments of empathetic sorrow. Is this really the best way to live?