Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mass Media and Disasters

Thank you to Eloisa Rozul, graduating from our Master of Disaster Preparedness and Reconstruction, for this excellent video and some interesting thoughts on media in disasters.


In today’s society, people are bombarded with constant exposure to mass media in different modes. These include television, magazines, books, radio, newspapers, movies and the most recent, internet. Media has proven to be a significant contributor of the people’s new ways of thinking, of perceiving and of interacting with their environment. Indeed, media has become an integral part of human existence. For instance, it provides an update of what is the latest fashion trend, new sports icon, the next political leader, the “perfect body” image, the upcoming celebrity star and all other events that arouse the interests of the public. Mass media has become a source of power and meaning.

Significantly, with the increasing number of global crisis and disaster occurrences, mass media has played a significant role in the entire disaster management cycle – from the pre-disaster phase (mitigation and preparedness) up to the post-disaster phase (relief and recovery). It has proven to be successful in fulfilling its strategic role in information distribution, mass communication and education of people in times of relocation, evacuation and relief assistance. Interestingly, mass media has seen to portray a new role – the linkage and emotional utility function. However, sensational portrayals of poverty and vulnerability, government’s shortcomings and helplessness of victims have resulted in inappropriate media stereotypes of the communities concerned. Although it has certainly helped in fund raising campaigns, it appears to have negatively influenced both victims and the concerned governments. As an example, the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines showed the positive and the negative impacts of mass media coverage. This video presents a simple but clear illustration of the power of mass media, focusing on the case of Haiyan.

by Eloisa Rozul

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