Which news headline would most readers click on: “is Bali Going to Blow?” or “Villagers of Remote Part of Bali Braces for Eruption”? If you choose the former, you’re like most people. With various media competing for readerships, people these days are less interested in objective journalism — they want sensationalistic pieces that also serve as entertainment. What Donald Trump would say next on Twitter is more engaging than a detailed rundown of economic policies that will affect the middle class, right?
The Mount Agung volcanic activities have hit the news around the world and its threat is real and its danger is potent to the residents of the villages in its slopes. However, how it impacts the rest of the island of Bali needs to be examined in an objective report. News articles, such as “Bali Volcano Activity Prompts ‘Red Warning'” from BBC or “Bali’s Mount Agung Eruption Prompts Mass Evacuation, Closes Airport” from cntraveler, provide the necessary fear to invoke attention-grabbing headlines and fill up the readers’ appetite for sensationalism. A UK publisher posted a long title: “Bali volcano is showing signs it will repeat devastating 1963 blast that killed 1,600, scientists warn after ash plume grounds flights and leaves 60,000 travellers trapped”! These news give the perception that the island is in impending doom, the lives of those living on it are in great peril and there is mass chaos that disrupts travelers plans. But what is the reality on the ground?
First, Bali is a big island and Mount Agung is located in the northeast corner, remote from the major tourist attractions. Second, many of these news articles are written to give a certain perception that they want the readers to draw, not necessarily reporting the objective truth. Being on the island throughout the period of the volcanic activities, it’s worth the effort to put on the different perspectives of what it looks like for the Bali’s residents.
Perception: Everyone is trying to flee the island.
Reality: There are over 4.5 million residents in Bali and more than 6 million tourists a year. The 100,000 or so evacuees are the villagers who live on the slopes of Mount Agung. News articles tend to conveniently omit this information to let their readers generate their own perception that all tourists are packing their bags and jumping to boats and planes to flee the volcano. The people who are really affected are the local villagers, not the tourists.
Perception; Bali is raining ash and is clouded by lava smoke
Realty: This is the picture of Ubud during the height of volcanic activity.
Doesn’t look scary enough, does it?
Day-to-day reality can be different from the perception that internet news articles are creating. Life goes on as usual in Bali: for residents, expats, and a number of tourists who are still sunbathing, surfing or drinking coffee by the paddy fields. But I should warn you: avoid hiking Mount Agung!