The first time we read about the Amazon rainforest fires last week, it was not through platforms we expected like CNN, CBS or the New York Times. We read most of the information on Twitter and Facebook. At first, we were confused as to how such important news gained more traction through unreliable Twitter threads rather than credible news sources.
We couldn’t help but recognize the differences between the Amazon wildfires and the fire that claimed Notre Dame in terms of media coverage and responsive donations. The Notre Dame fire occurred midday in Paris with tourists and Parisians that documented the blaze. The Amazon fires, however, are in the middle of a dangerous forest, which makes them much harder to extinguish.
These fires will have a dramatic impact on the entire planet, not just the rainforest’s ecosystem, if they continue at this rate. Even before the fires started, the Amazon rainforest was in trouble. Destruction of 3% more of the Amazon could end up affecting the U.S. and other countries.
There’s a lack of awareness about the situation. Maybe it’s because of the lack of news coverage, but when we went to Google and searched “Amazon fire” the majority of the search results were ads for Amazon Fire Tablets, not news coverage of the devastating fire in the world’s largest rainforest. This news story affects every living thing on the planet, yet Twitter sounded the alarm first. Nowadays social media is often a journalist’s first place to report from in order to get a story out, and we’ve been told in classes that using social media to report news makes us civilian journalists. Due to the lack of coverage on the fires, there are several rumors floating around that make it difficult for readers to know the truth.
Some people have blamed Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro for the fires, saying he “encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land,” according to an article on Express. However, Bolsonaro disagreed with those statements saying, “it was the ‘season of the queimada’, when farmers use fire to clear land.” Media outlets have the resources and the reporters to cover international news. It shouldn’t take outrage on Twitter to spark coverage of a major forest fire.