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Media Reporting during Crisis Situations


Liz CA
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I am wondering if I am alone in my frustration about reporting practices during crisis situations. I have been trying to get factual information i.e., updated missing persons list, identified casualties list, etc. for the camp fire area. We know a few people in that corner because we used to live close by.

Of course I know that in the middle of this chaos it is difficult if not nigh impossible to know what is what. However, the reporting by almost every major media is heavy on human interest angles and very light on facts. This is terribly frustrating to me. Now more than one person have said I am leaning toward the analytical side of things but I am curious what do people prefer: Human Interest Story i.e. how someone fled with the flames licking at their heels or what I call factual info like latest updates on missing people, what areas are evacuated, etc.?

I think when the immediate crisis is past, when we have a clearer picture of who is dead / missing / what are immediate needs of evacuees, etc., it is fine to do segments on human interest stories; however, in the middle of it I would appreciate "just the facts."

I do want to say that the local Sheriff's Department has my respect in how they are handling the situation and were it not for the nightly briefings, I feel I would only know how "John and Mary escaped with their poodle" (reported by the local media) and while I am grateful John & Mary did escape with their poodle, I am still looking for factual updates.

I guess this was a rant. Sorry.

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For California wildfires, I actually read mainly the CalFire page and the respective county sheriff’s page. So for Camp Fire, I would check out Butte County sheriff’s page for updates. 

The thing is abc7news on famous people losing their homes gets lots of clicks on Facebook and that probably helps with their ad revenue. So I could see human interest stories being essential for revenue by the news channels and I just stick to reading CalFire and sheriff office webpages for factual news.

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Absolutely!  We have a gov run media organisation here which is supposed to be more reliable and information based with stuff.  They are terrible for playing the alerts etc.  sometimes it will be half an hour between warnings.  In a fire situation that half hour can be life or death!

I think to some degree they’ve all passed their responsibility off to social media.  They think everyone will just google or figure it out online some way.  But actually we need reputable news reporting to give actual reliable information not to have to figure out in the middle of a crisis which online source is reliable and up to date.

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I try to go to NPR first.  They'll either have the facts right there or link to the docs, but I haven't seen one list of the missing yet, I have to say.  Then usually the BBC, especially if it's world news-worthy.
I just don't have the patience for most other news outlets.  They're wordy and tiresome and spend too much time quoting social media or giving me their opinion.  I don't want any of that.

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35 minutes ago, Ausmumof3 said:

Absolutely!  We have a gov run media organisation here which is supposed to be more reliable and information based with stuff.  They are terrible for playing the alerts etc.  sometimes it will be half an hour between warnings.  In a fire situation that half hour can be life or death!

I think to some degree they’ve all passed their responsibility off to social media.  They think everyone will just google or figure it out online some way.  But actually we need reputable news reporting to give actual reliable information not to have to figure out in the middle of a crisis which online source is reliable and up to date.

 

Half an hour between alerts does seem like a long time when there is an imminent threat.

Like Acadia suggested, I do now go first to the Cal Fire website which is their official web page similar perhaps to what you have with a gov run media organization. But I am wondering if the independent media could not do a better job or at least try to report on both sides - facts and human interests if that is where the income is generated (as a previous poster said) - so the poor emergency response personnel and dispatchers who are all totally overwhelmed, sometimes verbally abused on the phone and in person and have not slept in who knows how long, can concentrate on their work instead of fielding inquiries from people who cannot gain facts from other sources. Social media may be great in finding out who is safe. Dh found a few people that way and we are grateful to know they are okay but I don't think social media can be considered a reliable source even though sometimes info is gathered there faster than anywhere else. So I have to noodle this a bit. 

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39 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

I try to go to NPR first.  They'll either have the facts right there or link to the docs, but I haven't seen one list of the missing yet, I have to say.  Then usually the BBC, especially if it's world news-worthy.
I just don't have the patience for most other news outlets.  They're wordy and tiresome and spend too much time quoting social media or giving me their opinion.  I don't want any of that.

 

Exactly. I want the facts and not your opinion and the overplayed drama angle. Also, either I am too dumb to find things two days in a row or docs disappear from sites. I had locked into a official missing persons list three days ago and cannot find it today. Dh suggested I need to give them some time to update their info.

I have been mumbling and complaining to dh since the fire started so I wanted to give him a break and come here instead.  😊

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3 minutes ago, Liz CA said:

I had locked into a official missing persons list three days ago and cannot find it today.

 

Link (currently 699 names) https://www.buttecounty.net/sheriffcoroner

FYI News: Butte County, City of Chico Assisting Evacuees to Relocate from Walmart Parking Lot to American Red Cross Shelter

“Saturday, November 17, 2018/Categories: News and Announcements

Oroville, CA – Butte County and the City of Chico are working collaboratively with state agencies, the American Red Cross, and volunteers to assist with transitioning Camp Fire evacuees currently located at the Walmart parking lot in Chico to the Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley (199 E. Hazel Street) where services are provided.

Six American Red Cross shelters were established for fire evacuees, but some residents displaced by the Camp Fire originally evacuated to the Walmart parking lot in Chico, and the parking lot then became an unofficial donation distribution site. Community members in Chico expressed concerns about the health and welfare of the people staying in the parking lot.

A shelter is open at the Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley (199 E. Hazel Street) and supported by the American Red Cross. Teams of Butte County social workers will help people transition to Butte County Fairgrounds. The County will provide transportation to the new location starting today, November 17, 2018. Small animal sheltering will be available to evacuees at the Butte County Fairgrounds beginning Sunday, November 18, 2018.

People staying in the parking lot are not being forced to leave, however, rain is currently in the weather forecast for the area in the next several days, and Butte County and the City of Chico want to ensure that all evacuees displaced by the Camp Fire have a safe, dry, and clean place to stay.” https://www.buttecounty.net/News-Announcements/ArtMID/3464/ArticleID/1281/Butte-County-City-of-Chico-Assisting-Evacuees-to-Relocate-from-Walmart-Parking-Lot-to-American-Red-Cross-Shelter

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I was actually thinking the same thing today.  Even NPR the other day was doing way too many human interest stories.  Sometimes I think they're used more for fillers when they don't actually have a lot of factual information, or to try and string the listeners along until the next real report comes in.  And the questions asked are often embarrassing, because they're so obvious and so personal, like:   "What were you feeling when you saw your house go up in flames?"  

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