Local news misconstrues Nepalese students’ experiences

As Nepal begins recovering from its catastrophic earthquake, many Lawrence students have been engaged in efforts to raise money and provide aid to the state. The majority of these efforts are being organized by Nepalese students directly affected by the natural disaster.

News sources in the Appleton area have decided to cover the earthquake’s devastation by focusing on these students’ personal stories. This localized angle has provided a human narrative for the issue, but it has also led to sensationalization and inaccurate reporting.

Fox 11’s and Local 5’s coverage of the earthquake was entirely focused on the apparent devastation and helplessness of Bimalsen Rajbhandari, a Nepalese sophomore at Lawrence. Meanwhile, ABC WBAY-Green Bay presenting the personal story of Lawrence freshman Nijesh Upreti, focusing solely on unrelated details like Upreti’s “difficult” upbringing in a developing country.

Any interview conducted for short news clips must be cut down to only feature content selectively chosen by its given media outlet. However, the selected clips from each interview in this instance demonstrated a specific perspective that did not represent the subjects’ experiences.

Both Upreti and Rajbhandari felt that the coverage did not represent the content of each interview accurately and that all quotes were inappropriately pulled out of context. Many statements that both students found vital were left out, while several erroneous remarks were included. Local 5 included a comment about the messiness of Rajbhandari’s room, while WBAY assessed the meaning of a ring Upreti was wearing.

Throughout this coverage, Nepal was depicted as just another developing country experiencing yet another devastating trauma. The unique and important narrative of Nepal was lost in this overly-sentimental and simplistic portrayal of Lawrence students.

Nepalese students are being directly impacted by this natural disaster in tragic ways. But they are also engaged in causes to educate the community and provide aid for Nepal’s recovery. Along with daily fundraising efforts and a collective art project, Nepalese students have organized a benefit concert in the coming weeks. These efforts were nowhere to be found in the local television news coverage.

The sole focus on hopelessness did not do any favors to the featured Nepalese students or to their families in Nepal. This coverage provided broad statements about recovery, without giving any details about activist efforts on-campus. The Nepalese community at Lawrence provided an easy way to “localize” Nepal’s earthquake, but regional news sources have further victimized the state of Nepal to create an emotionally relatable story for the viewer.