You know what's funny? Earthquake coverage. To be specific: coverage of moderate earthquakes. NPR's coverage of the devastating Chengdu tremor in 2008 can be called many things, but not "funny" isn't one of them.
When a 4.7 quake hits Southern California, as one did last night, you have to expect a certain level of hilarity from news outlets. They're trying to report on an event that everyone knows happened, that everyone knows had few real effects, and that everyone knows happened yesterday. It's like your average breathless "STORM WATCH" broadcast, except there isn't even a monsoon to send your reporters into. CBS2 provides a good example, camping a lovely correspondent outside of a Starbucks where a person was reportedly injured. People Magazine undertook the noble task of chronicling the earthquake-related Twittering of Paris Hilton and Paula Abdul.
And so you'd be forgiven for chuckling a bit upon firing up the OC Register homepage this morning to see a swarm of "EARTHQUAKE HITS OC" stories on the front page. They've even got an "Earthquake Central" dedicated page for this stuff. Oh, the jokes we'll make...
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For a while, the top article was headlined "How shook up are you after the earthquake?" Our question, upon reading that, was "How long until the commenters blame illegal immigrants for this tremor?" But... but... nine pages in, and I can't find one mention of Mexicans. An Obama jab, sure ("If you get a 7 that's shallower than 6 miles deep within a 50 mile radius of where you live you'd better have darn good earthquake insurance. With the financial problems this country has Obama's not going to send you a bailout check in the mail either."). A masturbation scene, yeah ("I was sitting at the computer, downloadin you know what, when it hit. I was horrified to see the alarm clock fall offa da shelf, and hit my cup of cheep red wines. I reached fo da cup jus befo it all got spilt, and finished what was lef, den we go back to bizness."). But no illegals! Weird.
Next up: "Aftershocks continue from Sunday night quake." Should be fear-mongering, for sure, right? There's a picture of some damage caused by a 1933 quake along the same fault, and last night's quake is labeled "frightening." But it's a Gary Robbins Science Dude post... I always liked those... and this one has cool facts like "The preliminary depth of this quake is about 8 miles, which is pretty normal for Southern California."
The Reg dishes up another Science Dude piece, this one with a nifty map of earthquake reports around the county. And another one, with the history of the fault line. This stuff is all actually... interesting. Where's the silly story with the obvious man-on-street quotes and pre-cooked comparisons to rumbling trains?
To what do we credit the Register's lack of groan-causing earthquake coverage: good sense, or layoffs? If you leave a comment here, please try to at least mention the illegals.