Not knowing. That is one of the most terrifying things to face when a crisis emerges in your country. Unless you are directly involved in a crisis or the threat being reported, not knowing is all you have, and you are desperate to know what is going on.
In this mad dash for answers, the media attempts to relay the truth on to the public as quickly and accurately as possible. But with a rush for information, sometimes misinformation slips in. On either end, the broadcaster or the listener, fabricated “facts” can emerge and spread faster than wildfire.
In times of crisis and when the media is bombarded with demands for the ‘truth,’ a journalist/reporter must stick to the Journalist’s Code of Ethics even more so than ever. (Click on the link for an in depth explanation of the Code)
Seek the Truth & Report it
Reporters should stick to reporting confirmed details of an incident, especially incidents obviously linked to highly sensitive subjects, such as religion, race, or sexual-orientation.
When facts are unclear, reporters need to constantly remind the audience of what is confirmed and what is unconfirmed. With the constant flipping of channels, people just tuning into a segment will not immediately know the difference between confirmed facts and the analysis of a situation. The Journalist’s Code of Ethics states that one should label commentary. For example, if raw footage is shown during a broadcast and does not have a statement by a reliable source (i.e. the police) attached, news anchors and reporters should repeatedly inform viewers that the comments are not confirmed fact.
Minimize Harm & Act Independently
Crisis in the news involves sensitive information that could potentially cause more harm than good. In the case of hostage situations and large scale scandals involving minors, the media has to draw a line, quickly, in what the public has a right to know, and what a individual has a right to keep private.
However, some sensitive information, while harmful to an individual, deserves to be known by the public. This is especially true in situations involving powerful, and rich persons, who might attempt to repress negative information. In many cases, knowing the difference in times of immense pressure for the latest update can lead to mistakes.
Be Transparent & Accountable
In the inevitable moment that the media makes a mistake during a time of crisis, reporters should correct the mistake as soon as possible. Even if the false information is replaced by no information, the media has a responsibility to report accurately.
Comment below your experiences with media during a crisis.
(featured image taken from here)