Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Media In A Crisis Or Survival Situation.

The Media is one of the most potent sources of intelligence and early warning in the world that works 24 hours every day 7 days a week. But the Media often gets information wrong and can help blow the threat of different crisis out of proportion like in the case of the H1N1 Pandemic 2009. This is an attempt to give to tips and guidelines about how the Media works and how you can use it in a crisis or survival situation.

Electronic Communications
If the electrical grid may go off line your normal line of communications through TV and the internet may be disrupted. In that case a battery power radio with dynamo, a citizen band radio, radio scanner, short wave radio or HAM radio is a good tool of receiving information. If you’re using a radio the receive information: write down a log for the messages that you’re receiving and what time the information was received.

The journalists are the intelligence officers of the Media that helps collect news and report about events. In general journalists don’t have that much specialist knowledge but know little about almost everything. This means that they can often have too little knowledge about a particular event to understand what is really important and this may make the report vague and imprecise. This is also an effect of journalists working under an enormous time pressure, especially during a crisis. This time pressure means that there is very little time to check facts and the risk that journalists misunderstand something is significant. This can often result in a situation where different new media reports may be contradict other reports. Even if there are journalists how’s just searching for a scope or scandal, most of them are honest and serious people.

What is News?
Journalists and the Media gets information about thousands of events everyday but can of course not cover everything that happens so they have to choose what events to cover. Normally the information that gets broadcast in the media as news is something that deviates from what’s normal. Events that represent good and evil, life and death, black and white and other extremes also attract attention. The persons how get interviewed often represent the extreme cases, in a crisis situation the people how are hit the worst and live under the most horrible circumstances makes the most interesting people to cover. Needless to say, bad news is good news, so when the shit hits the fan it gets the attention from the media. If a news channel does not present the most interesting news, if they are not the biggest, fastest and first with ones to report about it, they will eventually be history.

So when a crisis happens the media tries to describe what has happened, tell the stories from the scene, warn and inform the public. The personal dimension of the crisis becomes an important part, to give the crisis a human face. The news media bring in experts to give their opinion and background to the event; they also start looking for what went wrong and creates debate over what’s happened. After the crisis is over the question of how this could happen and how should be held accountable starts.

The Importance Of Your Own Knowledge
Normally the coverage of an event starts with the dramatic pictures and interviews with government and local officials with the demand for answers, there is often some time before the background and fact start coming in. This is the crucial part for you: You must have knowledge about different kind of scenarios like natural disasters, industrial accidents, man-made disasters, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. You must also know your local crisis management system and what local resources are available and so that you can make a good assessment when the first information about the crisis starts to come in. This way you can take the appropriate response.

Some Of The Mistakes That Government Officials Make During A Crisis Situation
During a crisis situation the way the government officials informs the public about the crisis is very important. The first and most important thing is to admit when there is a problem. Getting down on the public’s level, taking responsibility, showing compassion and understanding of the consequences is important in order gain the trust from the public. And trust isn’t given to anyone, it’s earned. Indicating possible solutions to the crisis and ways out of the crisis is also important. If they don’t know what really is happening the best thing is to say exactly that: That they don’t have the information right now, lying for the media is often a grave mistake that may cause other problems to get investigated even further. Journalists (and poker players) are often expert of reading tells that indicates that people are lying.

Tips If You Ever Find Yourself In A Situation When You Get Interviewed
In interviews it’s a common technique for either journalists or other professionals like police officers to ask a question wait for the answer and not saying anything after the answers been given. This is a situation that most people find very uncomfortable. The result is often that the person continues to give information, often information that isn’t related to the question asked. If you ever find you’re self in this kind of situation, don’t be afraid of the silence, just wait for the other party to resume the questions.

• Whenever you find yourself in a situation when you get interviewed, take your time and think before you answer questions. Don’t let the interviewer stress you.
• Talk about your own area and speculate about thing you don’t know, lie or offer your own theories.
• Never talk with a reporter “Off the record”, there is no such thing.
• NEVER use the phrase “No comments”.

Keep your temper under control, if you get angry or hostile it makes “good” news. Before the interview starts be aware of your appearance, small details like a stain on a shirt may give the people viewing a negative impression of you. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. If you are having an interview it can be good to put a time limit before the interview, explain that you only have a limited amount of time for questions, this is especially important at press conferences. If you are in a situation where you inform the public during a crisis remember that what you say to others in different situations can be interpreted as official information.

Rumors, Propaganda and Disinformation
Rumors are a common problem in crisis situation: Incomplete information may be misunderstood by the media or the public and rumors may start to circulate. Rumors may in the worst case cause people to act irrationally and put themselves in harm’s way. In an antagonistic attack false information may be spread to increase fear or with the objective to make the job of the first responders more difficult. During armed conflict propaganda and disinformation are often used as a tool to mislead the enemy and weaken the resistance of the opponent.

The media makes an excellent tool for getting an early warning but there are other very important sources of information. Your social network is one of them. The bigger your social network is the more likely you are to know someone how might have important information and the more likely you are to get some assistance if you ever need it. Just remember: The doors swings both ways.

Natural Components Of Your Network
• Your family and relatives
• Your partner
• Your neighbors
• Your friends
• People from work

It can also be good to get to know your local politicians, people from the Police, Fire Department, The Military, FEMA, Doctors and other medical personnel, The Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and local Journalists just to name a few.

Keep names, phone numbers, addresses, birthdays and other information in a paper book, a digital back-up on your computer and mobile is also good. Keep in touch with people you know, send them post cards, keep in touch over the internet and e-mails, write letters, invite them over for dinner or a barbeque, go camping, fishing, hunting or hiking with them. Get to know them and make sure that they get to know you. Your social network is an important aspect in all areas of life, no matter if it’s a crisis situation, survival situation or if you’re looking for a job or advice.

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