There is little doubt that the media has a profound impact on our awareness of humanitarian emergencies and disaster relief around the world. The reality of these disasters, and our responses to them, are heavily influenced by the framework that the media uses – through exposure on television, radio and in print – to capture our attention.
The media has a number of important responsibilities as it reports on the events surrounding a natural disaster. I have broken down the media’s focus into four stages: early warning, immediate response, post-disaster review, and implementation. While these phases do not necessarily occur consecutively without overlap, they form a good basis for explaining the different roles of the media as disaster relief operations progress.
First and foremost, in what I call the “early warning” phase, the media serves as a link between disaster response units and authorities, and those at risk. Their role here is to alert victims of the impending threat and distribute disaster response advice.
After the disaster hits, the next phase is “immediate response”. The media’s primary focus here is to help victims of the disaster. The immediate response phase has two parts: crisis point, where victims need immediate access to basic essentials, and the rebuilding phase, where their basic needs are met, but there is ongoing need for donations – more generally in terms of goods and services – to help them rebuild. By reporting on stories with dramatic and emotive coverage during this phase, the media connects local and international NGOs with the public and compels them to donate.
In the “post disaster review” phase, the media focus moves away from aid, and takes a more evaluative approach. He...
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World Disasters Report 2005 Humanitarian media coverage in the digital age, Chapter 6.
Reports and Surveys ‘The CARMA Report: Western Media Coverage of Humanitarian Disasters’, Suzanne Franks, The Political Quarterly, Vol 77, No 2, April – June 2006.
Rasmussen, A 2005 Tsunami research and resources: media responses to the tsunami. Niasnytt Asia Insights No 2 2005: The tsunami and its social and political implications pp 18 – 20.
`Media, Disaster Relief and Images of the Developing World: Strategies for Rapid, Accurate and Effective Coverage of Complex Stories from Around the Globe'. March 1994
The Policy-Media Interation Model: Measuring Media Power during Humanitarian Crisis. Piers Robinson. Journal of Peace Research Vol. 37, No. 5, (Sep 2000), pp 613 – 633).
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