By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 14, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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The Internet is playing its role in helping American respond to the earthquake that has crushed what little infrastruture existed in Haiti.

Twitter and Facebook are full of details on how to get money to relief agencies mobilizing to get food, medicine and other essentials to the devasted area.

The facts of this catastrophe -- and with a death toll sure to be in the thousands, it's safe to call this a catastrophe -- are conveyed in written form, with pictures on news sites and newspapers. Print media is limited to still photos, Internet sites let you click on a video to illustrate the story.

But it is still television that offers the best way to experience the unfolding tragedy.

Part of the reason is the repetitive nature of the coverage, a relentless reel of images. It is the correspondents -- apparently the first to arrive was CNN's  Anderson Cooper -- who walk the streets of the flattened Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, who are our surrogates.

Here's one of his reports (with the unnecessary addition of background music):

Technology has improved this disaster coverage, offering high-definition pictures, at least from the airport in Port-au-Prince.

The ability to bring us these images is key in adding flesh and blood to the bones of the story provided elsewhere.

Haiti's earthquake is a disaster that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "biblical" in its immensity. To sense that even a little bit, you have to let the story flow over you, the images being almost numbingly repetitious.

That's where cable news outlets, specifically CNN, come into play. This story isn't really breaking news. Thanks to television, it's unfolding news.

On TV: ABC late-night talker Jimmy Kimmel is scheduled to be Jay Leno's dying prime-time show at 9 tonight on Channel 4. Kimmel dressed up like Jay on his Tuesday night show.

  • "Dexter" star Michael C. Hall  says he's finishing treatment for  Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is in remission. He plans to attend Sunday's Golden Globes, where he's nominated as best actor, and his Showtime program is nominated as  best drama.
  • TMZ says Elton John is being talked about as a replacement for Simon Cowell on Fox's "American Idol," after the snarky Brit leaves the show at the end of this season. That talk comes after TMZ raised the issue.
  • Kate Gosselin is getting a new "reality" show, with The Wrap reporting that she'll be trying out different jobs in the TLC show.

The Leno mess: While he continues to host NBC's "Tonight Show" in its normal 10:35 p.m. slot,  Conan O'Brien continues to milk his situation for comedy.

He told his audience Wednesday night: "Hosting 'The Tonight Show' has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me -- and I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too."

Here's video of another bit inspired by the situation:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.