Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hurricane coverage: Hot wind?
Much has been written about the advisability and desirability of positioning reporters in the path of hurricanes. Several insightful articles about this have appeared in Slate and the New York Times .

From a peace journalism perspective, while we might reflexively cringe at the ratings grubbing and sensationalism, I agree with the article above that there is an undeniable need for citizens (potential evacuees) to see and experience the severity of the storm with their own eyes.

That said, I am alarmed at the coverage that draws undue attention to those who choose to ignore evacuation exhortations. These range from the mundane (“I’ve never evacuated before”) to the absurd (“Florida Man Plans to Tie Himself to Pole During Irma”) and (“Man Says He’ll Ride Out Irma on his Boat”).
This coverage often set up a false equivalency—storm experts and local officials on one side of the screen preaching caution or urging evacuations, and hurricane skeptics and thrill seekers on the other. While there is no study data to prove this, I would bet that the constant drum beat of this worn out narrative of the "hurricane maverick" influences those on the fence, people considering whether to stay or evacuate. We don’t know how many stay because they see others ignoring the warnings, but if even one person remains behind and is injured or killed, then that’s one too many.

Perhaps the press should re-think giving storm deniers a platform.

Magazine coming soon
The October edition of the Peace Journalist magazine is coming soon! Stay tuned for details.

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