The Media during a Crisis Situation
With the advent of television sets in our rooms, computers, smart phones and tablets the media has become omnipresent. Often termed as the fifth estate, importance of media in our lives has steadily risen. According to Internet World Stats, there are over 2 billion internet users in the world and the number with an access to a television is even higher (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2012).
Social networking sites (referred to as Social Media) such as Facebook and Twitter had started as a mode through which individuals could communicate with each other. Today, it has evolved to a phenomenon through which important information can be communicated across millions of users in a fraction of a minute. Consequently, this new media has become a critical element in emergency and crisis response. Nielsen and NM Incite report that Social Media sites and blogs reach 80% of all active US Internet users. The figure for global users is not too different (Laad & Lewis, 2012). The role played by the media during Hurricane Katrina, Russian shootouts, earthquake in Japan, political unrest in the Middle East is proof to the fact that the media cannot be ignored today (Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d.).
Role of Media in Disaster Management
The role of media is the dissemination of information (Excerpts from the Davide Commission Report, n.d.). Primarily the media uncovers and distributes / spread the information that is connected to a disaster. Answers to questions such as the number of causalities suffered from the earthquake or war? The number of displaced people and those that need refugee status are all answered by the media. Also, one can get an impression of the disaster magnitude, how to rise above the situation as well as information regarding the type of aid required, in so doing aiding in fundraising.
“You need to be prepared for today’s media culture, in which a tweet can become newsworthy and a news interview can become tweet-worthy” (Concina, 2013). Acknowledging the rising importance of print and digital media, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) became the first International NGO to implement humanitarian mass communication program in all of its covering areas to amass firsthand and authentic information (IOM, 2012). Furthermore, many of the disaster management organizations have formulated their own mass communication programs such as International Rescue Committee, Red Cross International, Oxfam International, US AID and UK AID.
Disadvantages of the media in a crisis
A Congressional research service report by the Federation of American Scientists illustrates that false, inaccurate or outdated information, has been circulated through social media in disasters (Lipowicz, 2011). During the Japanese tsunami, several appeals for help were repeatedly retweeted although the victims had already been rescued. An additional concern is that certain organizations or individuals may on purpose give information that is inaccurate so as to disrupt, confuse, or frustrate response efforts (Lipowicz, 2011). This can be a result of a terrorist activity or a prank. Concerns also arise on the security and privacy of personal information that is collected during a disaster response through social media (Lipowicz, 2011).
In conclusion, media plays a significant part in relaying information more so during moments of crisis, particularly social media with its ability to reach a mass audience within minutes. The media has a key role as well as a moral responsibility to relay information in an accurate and timely manner during a crisis.
Concina, F. (2013) Crisis Management – Francesca Concina | PR & Communications.
Constitutional Rights Foundation. (n.d.). The Media in Times of Crisis.
Excerpts from the Davide Commission Report. (n.d.). The role of media in crisis situations – News.
IOM. (2012) International Dialogue on Migration.
Laad, G., & Lewis, G. (2012) Role of social media in crisis communication.
Lipowicz, A. (2011) Social media: A mixed blessing for disaster response.
Miniwatts Marketing Group. (2012) Internet users in the world distribution by world regions.
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