While Jacob Kushner is an accomplished journalist by any definition — his work is widely published on sites from Al Jazeera and The New Yorker to VICE and WIRED — he said it took until the last year and a half for him to feel comfortable writing opinion pieces.

But as an investigative journalist who formerly reported from the Caribbean, it’s not surprising Kushner has opinions on how the mainstream media reports on the wreckage following natural disasters, like in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew.

Kushner said he wishes he would’ve seen reporters give more context behind the disaster in their coverage.

“It was the same shallow journalism that I’d seen year after year after year,” he said.

When Kushner graduated from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and Latin American studies in 2010, he didn’t have any set plans.

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But time spent studying abroad in the Dominican Republic during his undergraduate years pushed him to return to Haiti, where he would stay and freelance for two years.

In those initial years out of school, he not only built up his knowledge about Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but connected with an Associated Press editor who would instill a mentality in him that he continues to apply in his work today.

What distinguishes the good journalists from the bad journalists, his editor and mentor informed him, is hard work.

“The key is to become somewhat of an expert yourself on something, whatever that is,” Kushner said.

That’s when journalists produce the most in-depth, informed reporting and make themselves invaluable to an editor or publication, Kushner said.

That’s also when journalists can actually give context to the news they’re reporting, he said.

After Hurricane Matthew hit, Kushner said most of the reporting he saw consisted of brief interviews with people who had been immediately impacted.

“[People] who, in the moment, were saying things like, ‘I don’t have food, I don’t have water and we need help,'” Kushner said.

This approach, he cautioned, is the easy way.

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It’s easy to report on reactions, he said, or on how much money a non-profit organization or a charity received. It’s even almost as easy to report the death toll after a disaster. And it’s this type of reporting that triggers relief donations. But frequently, Kushner said immediate relief donations don’t make a big impact in the long run.

The real challenge, he noted, is to report on what actually contributed to the disaster.

“If you spoke with those same people on any other day,” Kushner said, “They wouldn’t be telling you ‘We don’t have food, we don’t have water.’ They’d be saying ‘We don’t have a government … They’d be saying ‘These foreign aid organizations promised us things that they didn’t deliver.'”

If journalists are only ever going to parachute into a country in the wake of a disaster and then parachute back out, Kushner warned, they’re never going to hear these things.

But when journalists do, Kushner said they can begin to see and report on how factors like insufficient regulation, bad infrastructure and poor or non-existent disaster relief plans play into making natural disasters worse than they otherwise would be.

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Kushner also pointed to Florida. Hurricane Matthew also hit there, he said, but less than than 100 people died. The death toll in Haiti surpassed one thousand people.

“[In the United States] we have things like infrastructure, we use taxpayers money to invest in emergency response precautions,” Kushner said. “These are things that Haiti can invest in as well. We owe more to our readers than simply telling them about the carnage.”

But, he said, when there’s zero media attention on the underlying causes for such disasters, would-be donors have no information and therefore incentive to do or support the sorts of things that would prevent the next disaster.

At the same time, Kushner acknowledged one of the biggest drivers behind shallow reporting is reader demand.

To spur journalism that provides greater context, Kushner suggested people avoid the outlets strictly reporting and seek out news outlets which wrap their stories with context.

“We as news consumers like disaster porn, we read and watch the stories about how many people died in a place,” Kushner said. “There’s a reason [disaster porn exists], and the reason is us.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Al Jazeera. The Badger Herald regrets this error.