I can’t handle it: My view on media coverage of #ymmfire

My morning routine during the week at work consists of making a pot of French press coffee, eating my breakfast, checking my email, and listening to CBC Radio while I get through the morning. I need background noise to keep me focused (is that weird? I used to study with music I could sing along to…), but over the past few days, I’ve had to turn the radio off. I can’t handle it.

Most of you reading this likely know what’s happening in Fort McMurray, Alberta, right now. The city is burning and more than 85,000 people have been evacuated. I lived in Fort Mac from 1990 to 1998, and my parents were up there for 19 years total. I still have really close friends up there. I’m worried about them, and about everyone in the city. I’m doing what I can, in my own way, to help out.

What I can’t handle is the media around this story. CBC Radio has been broadcasting constant updates on the situation, taking over whole programs to cover the story. It’s all over the newspapers. Social media is a constant bombardment. I’m not criticizing that – people need information, especially those who are directly affected by what is happening – the people of Fort McMurray. But to listen and read and share posts all day every day…that’s what I can’t handle. Why does the fact that the leader of the Wildrose Party lost his home the top headline in the newspaper? The “deepest thoughts, prayers, concerns…” from the leaders of the political parties mean nothing to me, and likely means nothing to many of the people of Fort McMurray. What are you going to do to help? How will you help them rebuild, to return to their homes and their lives? To start over?

Yes, it’s still early days. But I want to know what the oil companies who operate north of the city are going to do to rebuild. I want to know the concrete details of what the provincial and federal governments are going to do to help everyone get back on their feet. I want to be absolutely sure that every dollar I donated through the Canadian Red Cross is going to help at least one family rebuild their lives. If you’re going to bombard me with information 24-7, give me this information. Is everyone safe? Good. Is it going to rain? Tell me that. Will you help people? That’s all I want to know.

You may think I’m a heartless bitch, but that’s not it. For me to be exposed to the media around this situation all day every day makes me more upset about it all. I really do care about the well-being of the people I know and care about, and of all the people of Fort McMurray. And I will support the recovery and rebuilding in my own way. But for now, I need to stop being constantly bombarded by info from the media, and from my connections on social media. I know we are all affected by this in some way, even if not directly. I’m not being cold, I’m dealing with my emotions about the situation in my own way. If I am no longer sharing photos/memes of support, don’t judge me. If I’m not liking your Facebook post or your hashtag, it’s not you, it’s me (and it’s not really helping anyone). If your ratings or readership drop by one point, I’m not sorry about that.

Let people deal with this in their own way. Support the recovery in any way you can. But don’t feel you need to be the rock star by consuming every single bit of info available and regurgitating it to everyone you know. Give an evacuee a hug. Send your buddy you lives in Fort Mac a text to see how they are doing. Donate whatever you can to the Red Cross or the food bank. Give meaningful support, but do it in your own way.


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