Brian Williams closed out MSNBC’s The 11th Hour on Tuesday with a segment on the California wildfires, including the unprecedented nature of the “extreme red flag warning” issued by the National Weather Service and the long hours and poor working conditions faced by firefighters.
While the fires are getting attention — for instance, Lester Holt has been anchoring NBC Nightly News from Los Angeles, and David Muir will be based there Wednesday for ABC’s World News Tonight –– Williams suggested that the sense of urgency would be far different if the disaster was taking place closer to the home base of the networks. Which is to say, New York City.
“We have admitted the obvious here before,” Williams said at the end of his show. “There is geographic dysmorphia at work in the coverage of these fires.
“Network news divisions are still headquartered out here in the East. To be more exact, we are all just blocks away from each other. And make no mistake, if we could smell the smoke in midtown Manhattan, if these were our homes in danger, our families being evacuated, live coverage would air perhaps on a split screen alongside impeachment coverage all day and all night.”
He finished, “So absent that, please allow us to say to our brothers and sisters in California, citizens and first responders both, we are thinking of you tonight.”
On Wednesday morning, a large brush fire started in Simi Valley, forcing evacuations of a large area that includes the Reagan Library. Meanwhile, the fire near the Getty Center in Los Angeles, which has burned more than 600 acres and destroyed 12 homes, is now 15% contained.