Barbados’ media practitioners have been challenged to focus more of their coverage on disaster preparedness and reduction, rather than loss of life and damage to property.
Head of TV at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Jewel Forde, issued this challenge to her media colleagues yesterday during the Media Sensitisation Campaign launch under the theme: Your Voices in the Storm: Credible, Factual and Reliable, at the Department of Emergency Management (DEM).
“It is worrying that both locally and internationally, the public and the media have an obsession with death and dying, known in the trade as ‘if it bleeds it leads’,” she stated.
But, Ms. Forde charged that a news story about the damage inflicted by a flood or a hurricane could just as easily include information about the types of structures that survived and those that did not.
“It is vital that more news stories are written that stress disaster mitigation long before and long after disasters, as well as in the immediate aftermath of a disaster event.
“Most disaster prevention and response is local. Communities mistakenly believe that international aid funds most disaster relief. In reality international aid seldom exceeds five per cent. Therefore, it is important for us the media to report how the public can assist in their own recovery,” she said.
She explained that both disaster mitigation agencies and the media must identify and communicate to the public specific measures that have either succeeded or failed to reduce the impact of hazards.
Ms. Forde also noted that human beings were not powerless when faced with the fury of nature, as communication technology and media were an essential part of any disaster mitigation policy.
Station Manager at Starcom Network, Anthony Greene, also described the media as strategic partners in the disaster management process, particularly when it came to influencing behavioural change.
He challenged his media partners to recognise the value that they brought to the table, and work together to achieve the overall goals.
“I applaud the GIS (Government Information Service), the DEM and all involved in this media sensitisation exercise as it relates to disaster management because you see media and communication as a strategic partner,” he stated, adding that the radio station remained committed to the cause.
Daily Editor of the Nation Publishing Co. Limited, Antoinette Connell, urged emergency stakeholders to call on the media day or night, prior to the hurricane season, and at any time.
“What we are about is safeguarding the lives of people and the community. It may be easy to do a forecast and say it may or may not… but the probability of a disaster happening puts us in a position where we need to have information, and have it constantly,” she said.
She noted that the Nation tried to provide disaster tips for its public before a disaster, and urged emergency managers not to view the media as an “annoyance” when they sought information, but rather to assist in providing it to calm an anxious public.
“I appeal to the experts when we call, respond… We need the information and we need it then and there,” Ms. Connell urged, adding it was a matter of life or death in some cases.
Country Content Manager for LOOP News, Kerri Gooding, said that the news agency introduced liveblogging last year during Hurricane Elsa which provided frequent updates to the public when they went online.
She noted that the media house provided critical preventive information before and during last year’s ash fall and Hurricane Elsa. “We want to keep Barbadians empowered with the correct information to ensure their safety,” she stated.