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Environment

Why Must the Media Supersize Everything?

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An emerging scandal--no matter how trivial or short-lived--is often sensationalized with the "gate" suffix. A similar hyping tendency is perhaps now on display with large, powerful storms. The hurricane that developed in the Caribbean in 2012, before weakening and making landfall in New York and New Jersey, was christened Superstorm Sandy. A year later, the tropical cyclone that slammed into portions of East Asia was dubbed Super Typhoon Haiyan. Now we see many media reports and headlines warning of Super Typhoon Vongfong. So have we entered a new era of superstorms--the kind that truly deserve such a designation--or is this just another media tic? Of course, weather events aren't unique in being super-sized.

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In recent years, many have heard about Superweeds (nicely deconstructed here by a scientist). This is what happens when a term in the media takes root: It becomes part of the vernacular, used reflexively and without regard to accuracy.

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