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Has the Media Changed the Response to Natural Disasters?


In most cases, when a disaster strikes, the first people that tell the world about it is the media (Reyes &Jacobs, 2006, p. 444). Upon hearing of any disaster that has occurred, the media tries to obtain more information about the disaster, dispatch their reporters to the site of the disaster; use their own files to add any background information to the disaster story as well as to report on anything they have been told by the survivors or witnesses (Deppa, 2000, p. 26). A disaster story is often a very big story and media outlets will attempt to devote all their airtime to that disaster story (Barkun, 1999, p. 34). Additionally, the media has played a significant role in informing the world about past disasters that have happened (Shaw, 2006, p. 294). For instance, the famine disaster in Ethiopia was brought to the world’s attention by the reporter Muhammad Ali who had photographed horrifying photographs of people dying from famine in Ethiopia (Haddow, 2008, p. 46). Furthermore, it was because of the media that the world became aware of the tsunami tragedy a few years back.

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Literature review on media and disasters

The media’s responsibility is to show the world about the magnitude of the disaster using various aspects of the media such as the television and internet (Reyes & Jacobs, 2006, p. 87). In addition to this, the most recent disaster that occurred was the Haiti earthquake and the media played its role very well in ensuring that the story was well covered (Blumefield, 2000, p. 58). However, there is one issue that many people have with the media (Riha, 2000, p. 373). Despite the way the media normally highlights the coverage of disasters, some people may tend to get frustrated, disturbed and disappointed at the way the media gathers information, release the content to the public as well as the negative impact the media reports can have on people (Mileti, 1999, p. 98).

However, the media has shaped the way people respond to natural disasters and this is quite evident in the way people start to offer any kind of help to disaster victims (Newton, 1999, p. 65). For instance, in the Tsunami disaster, people from all over the world donated food and other things to the victims of this disaster (Torres, 2005, 315). Through this, it is evident that the media has changed the way people in the society respond to disasters (Perkins & Izard, 2010, p. 201).

Theoretical framework

For the framework of this discussion, the media has changed many things concerning disasters. For instance, the media has helped many relief organizations that offer aid in disaster hit areas in fundraising (Paul & Shipman, 2005, p.105). The media helps in the fundraising by publishing pictures which often portray a lot of anguish and sadness, establish blogs for any help from the public as well as using television adverts (Straubhaar & LaRose, 2000, p.248). In the most recent disaster in Haiti, several internationally acclaimed media houses set up blogs for aid as well as advertising through their media channels such as television and radio (Rihai, 2000, p. 89). In addition to this (Smith, 2004, p. 178), victims of a disaster-hit area normally need the relevant information about the available options to make any meaningful alternatives about their future. The media comes in handy in this case by reporting on some available choices (Wenger & Friedman, 2000, p. 72). For instance, during the Ache Tsunami, many victims confessed that they did not have adequate information about the process to get the necessary aid and some victims did not comprehend the options that were available to them (Honore & Martz, 2009, p. 65). In addition to this, the tsunami disaster struck at a time when the media industry was experiencing a slow news period because it happened during the Christmas festivities, a time when people including the media bosses are prone to be quite charitable because of the Christmas mood (Show, 2006, p. 78).

Research design

The research design that will be used in this research will be the qualitative research design. This research design will attempt to find out if the media normally meets its objectives when dealing with or reporting about disasters. Furthermore, this design will help the media in observing the world around disaster hit areas and help the media in trying to come with a solution to answers to explain what they observed when reporting.

Method ethical information structure

This ethical information structure of this paper will be based on expounding the issues of the media and the way the media has played its part during disaster. When a disaster occurs, the media tries to obtain more information about the disaster, take their reporting team to the site of the disaster, and use their own files to add any background to the disaster story as well as tell or inform the public on the stories of any survivors in the disaster. On the other hand, qualitative research will be applied in this research to attempt to find out if the media fully plays its responsibility to effective reporting of disasters.


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