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TV: Darfur vs. Michael Jackson

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

With several hundred thousand people murdered in Darfur and 2 million homeless, the best hope for those still alive is American outrage. The only way the White House will move on Darfur is if it is flooded with calls from the public—and that will happen only when the genocide is brought home to living rooms across America. According to recent data, coverage of the crisis during evening newscasts of the broadcast networks actually declined last year. The total for all three networks was 26 minutes in 2004. That wasn't much, but it dropped to just 18 minutes in 2005. In contrast, the networks gave the Michael Jackson trial in 2005 a total of 84 minutes of coverage. Imagine the furor newscasters could stir up if they publicized the rapes and murders in Darfur. They could save lives on a grand scale.

—Nicholas D. Kristof [2/7/06]