Recent East Coast hurricanes have gotten more media coverage than California wildfires

In the past few weeks, a series of historically destructive wildfires have ravaged California — burning entire towns to the ground, leaving 84 dead, nearly a thousand missing and more than 10,000 homes destroyed — and the blazes are still ongoing.

But the issue has received far less media coverage than hurricanes this year, according to data from, a company that measures article views for more than 3,000 primarily U.S.-based publication websites, including the Wall Street Journal, NBC and Time.

Since March 31, 2018, there have been nearly 30,000 articles written about hurricanes in these publications, but only a third of that, 10,605, about the wildfires. The Washington Post also found that cable news stations similarly covered the fires at a disproportionately lower rate than other natural disasters nationwide.

The data suggests there’s truth to the assertion by many that New York- and D.C.-based media publications aren’t giving enough attention to the disaster out West. It doesn’t help that, as some have pointed out, many national outlets are covering the topic with East-Coast-centric framing — marveling at glowing sunsets all the way in Washington, D.C., and hazier skies in New York — rather than focusing on the catastrophe in the fire’s center.

Fewer articles means fewer people are reading about the wildfires as well. Articles about hurricanes in’s network had nearly 90 million unique views globally since the end of March, while articles about wildfires saw about 30 million. There were about 10 hurricanes in the North Atlantic this year; there were thousands of wildfires of various sizes in California.

Even on an individual level, hurricanes receive more media play than wildfires. For example, the week Hurricane Florence made landfall, there were nearly 9,000 articles written about hurricanes; there were over 4,000 the week Hurricane Michael hit. Meanwhile, during the week of Nov. 10, when the Camp Fire was in full swing, only 2,000 articles were written.

While the typical hurricane passes through a larger geographical area than a wildfire, which might explain some of the disparity in coverage, the human impact can sometimes be just as severe with wildfires. For example, the Camp Fire in northern California spans around 236 square miles and has killed 81 people so far. While Hurricane Florence in its peak intensity affected around 60 times that area — 15,000 square miles — with hurricane-force winds, it killed 53 people.

Also, even though the fires in California have been getting the most attention recently, many other states are affected by wildfires, which are only intensifying thanks in part to climate change. Oregon, Washington and Montana are among the states also prone to destructive blazes.

And — unlike a hurricane — a wildfire can leave even those living thousands of miles away with unintended negative long-term health consequences. Toxic smoke from the two fires has permeated California’s skies with unhealthy air quality across dozens of cities, leaving millions of residents vulnerable to an increased risk of chronic lung and heart disease. The areas affected include two of the nation’s most populous cities: San Francisco and San Jose.

So while it’s easy to understand why media outlets pay attention to phenomena that’s easier to predict, spans a wider geographic region and is closer to home — they might want to start paying more attention to another important form of devastation.

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