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Statistics vs. people

A point of my play, Fracture Zone, is that we can’t appreciate the scope of disaster. If you know someone who was involved, you find it easier to mentally frame a disaster; however, this ability is not present when you do not know, or know of, the victims.

Consider the comparison between two aircraft accidents in Russia in 2011. In June, a TU-134 with a compliment of 52 passengers and crew crashed outside Petrozavodsk. There were 47 fatalities. This received minimal news coverage, despite the fact that the weather, and major crew errors, including the navigator being intoxicated, were the cause of the crash.  Truthfully, air disasters in many countries, such as Russia, receive little emphasis in the media.

Contrast this with the crash less than three months later of a Yak-42 aircraft near Yaroslavl. Of the 45 passengers and crew, there was only a single survivor. However, there was extensive coverage of the event because the passengers largely comprised the Lokomitv Yaroslavl KHL hockey team. A large number of the team members were former NHL players and there was coverage of the crash, memorial service and speculation on what would happen in the case of an accident involving an NHL team.

Why would there be more public discussion of the plane crash with fewer casualties?  What makes one any more or less of a tragedy? Why should one be reported as a question of numbers and the other be considered in terms of the people involved? Yet, in the case of coverage of disaster, this is usually the case.

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