A publication of the World Editors Forum


Fri - 30.01.2015

disaster coverage

'Hurricane' Irene, which eventually turned out to be a tropical storm, was a natural disaster that loved the spotlight. As Howard Kurz of The Daily Beast points out, the fact that a rare hurricane was poised to strike the East Coast base of many major news operations managed to draw news coverage in the US away from the ongoing struggle in Libya in favour of non-stop storm coverage.

There's nothing strange about this: whenever unexpected bad weather strikes a major city, the media is always on high alert providing constant updates for their concerned audience.

Irene, however, is particularly interesting as the coverage, both user-generated and professional, spanned so many platforms and even temporarily altered the business models of several news organisations. Was it a 'hurricane of hype,' asked Agence France-Presse?


Katherine Travers


2011-08-29 13:20

In times of disaster, journalism becomes more crucial than ever. Journalists are necessary to relay information about safety and investigate responsibility.

Recognizing this, the UN recently published a manual, Disaster Through a Different Lens, for journalists covering disasters. The guide is 189 pages long and focuses heavily on disaster prevention, as disaster risk reduction is a "national obligation and a good story".

The first half of the guide is informational and summarizes the scope of disaster prevention, but reads a bit like a high school textbook. It summarizes the Hyogo Framework for Action, a plan of preparedness for disasters that countries the world over have agreed to implement. However, much of the advice it dispenses is general and would be better served if given to a government official than a journalist, such as "plan for land use" and "organize drills". However, the information could prove useful when investigating government preparedness or failure in future disasters.

The second half addresses the media's role in disaster reporting. Jonathan Baker, who until 2010 was the deputy head of newsgathering for the BBC, includes a piece about the media's responsibility. He divides the reporting into phases, from the "primary", in which the main objective is to disseminate information to raise awareness and detail where to find shelter, water, and food.


Florence Pichon


2011-06-07 18:06

In the wake of the 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan on March 11 of this year, the Japanese news industry showed resilience and dedication to keeping their readership informed.

Initially, newspapers in northeastern Japan had difficulties publishing, but thanks to mutual anti-disaster agreements with newspapers in neighboring prefectures, newspapers in the heavily affected Tohoku region were able to continue publishing.

Some newspapers used back-up generators to maintain power and reduced the number of pages in print, according to the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association.

One resourceful newspaper in Ishinomaki, Japan, resorted to handwriting papers for residents and passing them out at local relief centers.

For those who did not have access to power, Twitter became the best way to relay reports of damage and daily life in the quake region, as email was unsure and drained mobile phone batteries. Internet access remained unstable for a few days, and newspapers used the micro-blogging service to keep readers informed of disaster-related information.

For some papers, this was the first time ever using Twitter. The Kahoku Shimpo, a newspaper in the Miyagi Prefecture, started a "TwiLog" service to archive past Twitter messages in a searchable blog.


Florence Pichon


2011-06-01 13:23

An earthquake and tsunami didn't stop the press. In Ishinomaki, Japan, the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, the town's only newspaper, refused to be thwarted. Even though it had no power, staff hand-wrote papers for residents. They were handed out at local relief centers.

Now, those hand-written copies have been attained by Newseum to be displayed in a future exhibit at the Time Warner World News Gallery, according to its site.

The paper was dedicated to giving information to citizens. The first edition let residents know it was the biggest earthquake in the history of Japan. The next day's edition reported the arrival of rescue teams to the area. Three days later, it said, "Let's overcome the hardship with mutual support." One day after that, it reported the lights had come back on.

Carrie Christoffersen, curator of collections said, "Without the benefit of any of the 21st century conveniences or technological advancements, and in the face of significant personal hardships, these journalists were distinctly committed to providing their community with critical information, and they used simple pen and paper to do it."


Meghan Hartsell


2011-04-15 18:05

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