by Liam Heffernan
On Thursday 28th April 2011 Alabama and the southern states were hit by a storm killing almost 300 Americans. It was 'the worst tornado outbreak since 1974' leaving thousands of people homeless and over a million without power. The following morning, I was sitting in a hostel in downtown Boston trying to see the news through the heads of old ladies huddled around the television (it was an odd place).
Friday morning and droves of news anchors and correspondents from all major networks (including Fox, CNN, ABC, and CBS – see what I did with the title? Journalism at its best) were brought together in what was one of the biggest news days in recent years on American television. People throughout the country woke early in the morning to see the event unfold live, and for the remaining two months in the States there was only one question I was asked:
"Did you see the royal wedding?"
Sadly, yes. I did see the royal wedding. Everyone saw the royal wedding. In a cunning PR move usually reserved for unpopular political announcements, the storm chose to hit at a time when such unwelcome tragedy was relegated to the 'other news' because Kate Middleton in a wedding dress was far more important. For an infamously patriotic country, their fascination with the royal family never ceases to astound me. In an article published a few days before the wedding, the Huffington Post note how there was more news coverage of the wedding in the US than there was in the UK. I even had a lengthy conversation with a security guard in Atlanta who knows more about the history of our monarchy than most of us Brits do.
This post has no conclusion or profound academic point, and I remain perplexed at the irresponsible nonchalance with which the American news treated such awful tragedy in favour of a little old wedding across the pond. Throughout the morning of the 29th April, one of the worst natural disasters in the country since Katrina was nothing more than a distracting fringe story, but why was the wedding so important?