Following Hurricane Irene coverage this weekend intrigued me, whether on Twitter, YouTube, TV or radio, because all I could see were conflicting reports of how big the storm was, what the impact would be, what category, how long of a clean up it would take after Irene goes by…
With our 24 hour news cycle to fill, sometimes it seems like we are willing to lower our standards on accuracy and relevance to keep people listening and watching rather than present the information honestly and without hysterics.
Even though the hurricane did have some serious damage in parts of the East Coast of the United States and the Caribbean, destroying homes, cutting of electricity, causing major flooding and there is a reported death toll of 24 people so far, many people have questioned whether the uninterrupted media coverage created a bigger storm than the actual one.
This is a comic by a popular website called The Oatmeal, that illustrates the gap between reality and media hyping of hurricanes.
There was a lot of misinformation about the extent of Irene, with reports saying it was a category 5 and later down to a category 1. The mass evacuations that weren’t all necessary could make some citizens less wary for other disasters, the way students become comfortable when fire drills are called.
Yet others say that it was good to have so much non-stop coverage because people were more aware and prepared to face the storm had they not been fully warned of this emergency situation. It’s better to be safe then sorry, as they say.
I think the media industry has a real responsibility and duty to follow the code of ethics and put the public’s well being as a priority when it comes to our job. Striking a balance between immediacy and reality is important when dealing with in-depth coverage of breaking news events. If we want journalism to be a public service, we should strive for it to be an effective and beneficial one.
What do you guys think of the way the news handled the hurricane coverage?