A Study of Mass Media Reporting in Emergencies

March 1985 (VOL. 3, NO. 1)

Download this article

This paper examines the operations of mass media in disasters, the content of messages in disaster reporting, and the distortion in reporting warnings and disasters, based on empirical studies in several communities in Japan.\r\nIn the writing stage, we found that the broadcast media are the primary source of information in most cases. However, the warnings often did not reach a complete range of audience, nor could it induce an adaptive response among these recipients.\r\nAs for the mass media operation during and after the disasters, we found that the difficulties in mobilizing resources, uncertainties in reliable news sources, and malfunctioning communication channels were the main obstacles in reporting damages.\r\nThe main characteristics of the content of mass media reporting in disasters are described. Six types of information are found in the disaster reporting of the broadcast media: Information on (1) advice or directions, (2) disaster agent, (3) safety message, (4) damage, (5) countermeasures, and (6) restoration. The results of the content analysis of the broadcast of two stations on the day of the Nihonkai-Chuubu Earthquake shows that personal messages and damages information were the most heavily broadcast. This did not always match the information needs of the residents.\r\nThe media in Japan tend to exaggerate damages in disasters, leading to the distorted perception of hazards. They also tend not to report sufficiently the news people want to get. The reasons for these inaccurate reportings are: (1) journalist\\'s attitude to news editing and reporting, and (2) distorted images or myths among journalists. The content of newspaper reporting of a false warning was analyzed as a case study.