Earthquake exposes East Coast-West Coast media feud

Dylan Stableford

Despite a chaotic, fluid uprising in Libya, all three network newscasts led their broadcasts on Tuesday with earthquake coverage. But the 5.9 magnitude quake that struck 90 miles outside of Washington, D.C. did more than expose the news media's collectively short attention span: it exposed the snarky rivalry that exists between East Coast and West Coast media.

As TV and radio hosts from D.C. to New York delivered firsthand accounts (variations of "Did you feel it?" and "Where were you?") and the East Coast media was abuzz on Twitter about the rare seismic occurrence, the West Coast media spent most of the afternoon seismically sniping about how the East Coast was overreacting to it all.

"Californians are Being Insufferable About This Earthquake," a headline on Gawker complained.

Oh, they definitely were.

"5.9?" Sarah Atkinson, a San Jose-based marketing manager, wrote on Twitter. "That's what us Californians use to stir our coffee with."

"As if New Yorkers aren't arrogant enough," Larry Morgan, a host on Southern California's 100.3 The Sound, wrote. "Now they've 'survived an earthquake.' So what?! We had a bigger disaster: the Kardashian wedding."

But the mocking wasn't limited to California.

"Hey East Coast," Todd Walker, an Anchorage TV anchorman, wrote on Twitter. "The entire West Coast is mocking you right now."

CNN, which evacuated its Washington, D.C., studio, took a break from its coverage of Tripoli to report about what did not fall down: the Washington Monument, Capitol, Pentagon and the White House.

An image of a tipped-over picnic chair--adorned with the caption "8-23-11 Never Forget" and distributed on Twitter--became a symbol of the mock panic.

Andrew Lakoff, a University of Southern California anthropology and sociology professor, told NBC that for West Coasters, "a perverse consequence of living with the ongoing specter of catastrophe is this sense of pride."

NBC, which, like many media companies, operates on both coasts, experienced both sides of the Biggie-Tupac-like media rivalry.

"All the more laughable for some were the images of people fleeing buildings," a post on read. "The exact opposite of what you're supposed to do in a quake."

But for those in the media who experienced 9/11, the response, at least initially, was justified.

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's Pentagon correspondent said: "I, like many other people here, thought: 'Oh my God, we've been hit again.'"