Role of Media

Media serves the public in providing news on current events on a global scale and educating the public on contemporary issues. During natural disasters, this agency helps provide coverage to seek assistance from other countries and organizations. Following the event, the role is to critically evaluate the cause and response strategies. During the flooding events analyzed in this paper, the role of media has been a valuable outlet for citizens and public health officials to voice their concerns about the current system and address the concerns that the government should address to prevent and adapt a better response policy.

In the event of Hurricane Katrina, the role of media has helped launch an investigation to analyze the failures of FEMA. For example, following hurricane Katrina, a report analyzed the content of media that was released during the floods. “Of the 1590 articles analyzed, more than 40% focused on the accountability of the federal government. The federal government, as opposed to individuals, families, or local governments or agencies, was identified as the entity most needing to respond or as already having taken responsibility.” [2] The concern felt by many citizens about the government was supported by a report released by the Department of Homeland Security. This report, as discussed above, has been beneficial in implementing major changes to response strategies since the event in New Orleans. However, the role of media can be improved if it focuses on addressing public health issues we well. A number of “journalists focus on conflict, loss of life, property damage, and identifying the accountable party. By contrast, from a public health practitioner’s view, important public health news is absence of conflict with loss of life minimized and injuries promptly treated.”[2] In order to address this divide in the future, it is important to find a balance in what is reported to the public. During natural disasters the loss of clean drinking water poses a serious threat to the population and in order to address these concerns, journalists and public health officials should coordinate in order to provide guidance for victims.

On the other hand, the issue in Chennai is the lack of media coverage. In fact, a number of social media outlets were more efficient in spreading information about the issue and providing information on where citizens could receive assistance. The few media outlets that addressed issues beyond what was occurring in South India, helped voice the concerns of citizens who felts that their government was more focused on propaganda than providing relief. Many individuals came forth and expressed their disappointment in the government of Tamil Nadu. For example, considering that the event happened so close to the election, various food and beverages that were distributed on behalf of the government came with a sticker of the party leader in charge during the time, Jayalalitha Jayaram.[8] Not only was this distracting the main goal of providing relief, but also seemed to appear to victims of the floods that the government was more concerned with themselves rather than the citizens.

Although the role of media very different in the two flooding events analyzed, the purpose of analyzing these events is to highlight how media has been used in the past to address concerns and how it can be used in the past to better facilitate relief efforts.