Chasing Disaster: The Risks of Fast, Furious or Fake News

Disasters no longer seem like rare events with the internet and smartphones delivering instant, compelling stories for a global audience that is curious, observant and active on social media. Experiencing disaster, then being in the public eye, can be traumatic, and so Britain’s National Health Service has issued warnings about the risks of using social media after terrorist attacks or giving personal accounts to journalists. Most odious are false reports drafted to misdirect responsibility and create an atmosphere of mistrust. Both social media and journalism have been lifelines during the recent hurricanes and earthquake in the Americas, flooding in South Asia and the flight of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar after years of mistreatment. News reports are linked with increased aid and lessons in preparation, and Humphrey Hawksley urges fellow journalists and the public to keep three factors in mind when assessing disasters: sourcing, the reporter’s role and impact of disaster coverage. “News coverage of natural disasters and war have long been pivotal at tugging heart strings and forcing changes to government policy,” he concludes. “Journalism has always been laced with vested interests and advocacy. The danger today is the immediacy in which inaccuracy speeds around the world, fueling emotions and decisions. – YaleGlobal