Fire, Media, and Politics

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

There were two fires in Spokane this morning. They both broke out while most people were still asleep. One of the fires left three families homeless, while the other burned in an unoccupied, unfinished building. If you were the news director, which story would you give greater coverage? The local news decided that covering the empty building fire was more important than the three-family fire.

To their credit, there were several explosions in the vacant five-story building, which was still under construction. The explosions were caused by propane-powered heaters that the construction crew had left on overnight to dry out some drywall, although it’s unclear if the heaters were the cause of the fire. Despite this, no one was in the building at the time, so there were no injuries. The building was fully insured, so the property owners will be able to rebuild (they have already stated that they plan to do so). In fact, really the only people harmed in this are the property owners (who, as I said, have insurance) and the constructions workers who are temporarily out of work (though I’m sure they’ll be hard at work again when the building is rebuilt).

On the other hand, there are three families who are now without homes because their houses burned down. I’d tell you more details about their fire, but the news almost completely ignored it, except to say that it was taking resources away from the empty building fire.

Why all the coverage for a vacant, unfinished building? Because it was owned by Gonzaga University.

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  1. Lindy

    You will be happy to know that the Gonzaga fire even made it on Seattle’s morning news. I don’t know if we are having a slow news day or what – but it was there. Our broadcast, however, included the fact that since the building was scheduled to open in June there are now hundreds of college students that have to look for new homes. The focus was on inconvenienced contractors rather than hundreds of students now having to flood the already flooded apartment market in downtown.

    It’s sad that everyday tragedies of real people are overshadowed by corporate ones.

  2. On the news I was watching (which happens to be the #1 news team in town), they only sort of mentioned that it was supposed to open soon. They didn’t say anything about students being displaced, however. They did keep saying that it had 225 rooms, though.

    In a meeting this morning, I heard that hundreds of new flats and condos are being built downtown (not as a result of this fire; they were already being built). While that doesn’t solve the problem, at least the students won’t be totally shafted.

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