When Donald Trump took to Twitter over the weekend to rail against NFL players protesting during the national anthem, he was immediately called out for his lack of concern for the people of Puerto Rico. But for many, especially those with relatives and loved ones on the island, it wasn’t just Trump who neglected to speak on Puerto Rico, it was also the media. But now data from Media Cloud, which collects information on news published online daily, shines light on how little outlets covered Hurricane Maria compared to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.
The natural disasters in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean all took place within weeks of each other, with Harvey first striking Texas on August 25. Hurricane Irma then hit the Caribbean in early September before striking Florida. The media dedicated more sentences per day to Harvey and Irma both online and on air, according to FiveThirtyEight. Additionally, the BBC, a foreign network, first covered Hurricane Maria more than US outlets. CNN is the station that has dedicated most coverage to Puerto Rico. Data shows that networks may increase coverage on the island, especially ahead of Trump’s planned visit next week.
It’s not immediately clear why outlets haven’t covered Hurricane Maria as extensively as the other two hurricanes, but it’s a concerning trend when you take into consideration that nearly half of all Americans don’t even know that Puerto Ricans are fellow citizens. A new Morning Consult poll of 2,200 American adults revealed that 46% were unaware that people born in Puerto Rico, a US commonwealth, are citizens. Lack of coverage reinforces this idea, and as the country faces a long journey toward recovery – officials have already described “apocalyptic” conditions – the island needs as much attention as possible.
In the absence of reporting by publications, there has been a lot of citizen reporters stepping up to provide necessary information. David Begnaud of CBS News has particularly used his platform to shine a light on the issues that matter most. His Twitter account is an endless feed of information about the island, and people have taken notice and praised him for his dedication to the people of Puerto Rico. Follow him here, and then head to FiveThirtyEight for more.