By ISABELLA VACCARO
Six people died in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which decimated Florida’s panhandle, flooded the Carolinas and continues to cause mass destruction on the Atlantic Coast. Entire houses were uprooted and more than one million people were out of power.
I compared CNN’s coverage of the storm to the Sun Sentinel’s and found that although both provided similar information, the presentation and angles were completely different. While CNN’s presentation was much more conducive to acquiring facts quickly, the Sun Sentinel’s coverage almost read as a narrative, using its locality to its advantage with stark Florida references that evoked emotion in its readership.
Even the two news sources’ headlines differed vastly in the message that they sent. The Sun Sentinel’s headline, “Hurricane Michael wipes out Mexico Beach, Fla., in ‘apocalyptic’ assault” plays on the drama of the hurricane and sends the message that the storm has passed, devastatingly, leaving Florida in distress.
CNN, on the other hand, headlined its coverage, “Michael’s not done yet — path of destruction stretches north from Florida,” stressing that although the storm departed Florida, it is still a threat to other coastal states like Virginia — obviously taking a more national lens to the story.
Furthermore, the Sun Sentinel uses similes and metaphors to tell the story of how Michael ripped through the panhandle and shook the worlds of many. Instead of delving right into the hard facts, and after a heart-wrenching anecdotal lede, the author writes, “Boats were tossed like toys. The streets closest to the water looked as if a bomb had gone off.”
CNN, instead, hits the ground running with an inverted pyramid-style beginning, stating in the lede exactly where the hurricane hit already and where it is headed, as well as mentioning some of its effects, like flash floods. CNN also writes a bulleted list of “Key Developments” for readers who want fast facts about the storm, providing the route of the storm, how many power outages there are, who died and more.
Contrarily, it makes sense that a Florida newspaper would only focus on the effects of the storm in Florida, and the narrative style makes for a more interesting, though saddening read. The Sun Sentinel even includes an anecdote about a couple searching for their elderly mother in the ruins of the storm, inserting a quote portraying the way the wife called out for her mother: “Aggy! Aggy!”
Both news sources do a good job of capturing the severity of the storm, but for the Sun Sentinel, the focus was in the past, whereas CNN makes sure to send a message that the storm is still highly threatening. It is always interesting to note how many different ways the same story can be covered based on the location and audience of the news source.