Essay about Media Coverage of Hurricane Sandy

Submitted By chandimeka
Words: 1083
Pages: 5

On October 29, 2012 Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States. It was among the deadliest storms that people in this region have seen. The destruction caused by Sandy resulted in over 110 deaths and tens of billions of dollars in financial losses. Over 7 million people in 10 states were without power, some for over a week. Besides this there was severe flooding, public transport came to a standstill and gas was rationed. In a national disaster of this kind the medias role is a crucial one in the success of disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. If accurate and timely information is disseminated to authorities and the general public, it reduces risks, helps prepare and in some cases can even save lives. Planning and controlling the flow of information before, during and after a disaster will define media organization's credibility, trustworthiness, authority, and effectiveness (Haddow and Haddow). Natural disaster coverage is generally broken down into three phases of communication. The first one, the warning phase occurs before the disaster and involves communication vulnerable areas and zones that are most likely to be hit hard. During this phase it is important that the information is accurate so as not to spread fear. This information needs to be provided in time so people in these areas can take the necessary precautions. The second phase is communicating in disaster, which involves the media sharing information and facts about the human loss, property damage, perceived risks and threats, relief activities and donation details. During this phase it may be difficult to get exact and factual details but it is important for the media to remain true to the facts journalists in the field report back. In the aftermath of the disaster, media kick into their third phase, which is the relief and rehabilitation phase. During this phase the media portrays the extent of damage and is a primary vehicle for relief efforts. They spearhead campaigns to aid victims of the calamity and direct attention to national/international relief efforts that are underway. During this phase, officials comment of the nature of the damages and the efforts the state is making to provide aid. It is important to address the level of involvement and responsibility journalists have when covering sensitive situations such as natural disasters. Some obvious considerations include manner in which to interact with victims, supporting emergency services, reporting appropriate figures of damage, limitations of graphic images/video of victims or loss of property, degree to which coverage should be intensified and stating important warnings and messages for the general public to act on. If the media acted as one of the major stakeholders in disaster management, they may be able to exercise a higher degree of caution and ethicality in the above situations. As it relates to the media coverage of Hurricane Sandy, there were several instances that brought ethical issues to the forefront, both in a positive and negative way. During the warning phase, American media put out warnings for the states likely to be affected as meteorologists predicted the path of the storm. The people were warned to take precautions and stay indoors, even evacuate certain areas. Once the storm hit, news about the destruction and devastation it had caused states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut flooded news channels, newspapers, the Internet and radio. As the world watching as American's suffered Sandy's fury, far fewer took notice when it first made landfall in the Caribbean. Almost a week before Sandy reached the United States, it struck Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, Bermuda and Jamaica; leaving thousands of people homeless and wiping out crops and livestock. In Cuba it was considered the most damaging storm in over 50 years. Still none of the mainstream media in America reported about the widespread destruction and loss in these smaller