Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

Journalists share lessons on disaster reporting

December 5th, 2013 · No Comments

After super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) slammed into the central Philippines on Nov. 8, journalists who emerged from the devastation it wrought learned what deprivation was about, including deprivation of resources needed to report the news.

During the 33rd quarterly meeting of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) today, Peace and Conflict Journalism Network Philippines acting national coordinator and chief of operations Ledrolen Manriquez talked about the challenges faced by journalists in the badly hit areas of Tacloban, Leyte and Guiuan, Eastern Samar after their offices and equipment were destroyed by the storm.

With wind gusts of up to 275 kilometers per hour, super typhoon Yolanda pummeled 14 provinces in the country, leaving more than 5,700 people dead so far.

Evaluating Cebu media’s post-Yolanda coverage, St. Theresa’s College mass communication coordinator Mia Mateo said readers and listeners appreciated the daily updates given on the toll of the dead, injured and displaced; damage to homes, infrastructure and agriculture; and the number of people living in evacuation centers, which she said moved the public to help survivors.

She lauded Cebu’s three English-language daily newspapers for setting aside competition to collaborate on the #Relief Tracker project with the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. that consolidates the reports on the barangays in northern Cebu that have received aid, so that those that have not yet received any may be attended to.

While praising the Cebu tri-media for giving media exposure to the various government and private sector efforts to help typhoon survivors, Mateo also said there were still other government agencies and private groups that had yet to be recognized for their assistance.

After businessman Bunny Pages asked why foreign media seemed to have more comprehensive coverage of the disaster than local media, the Cebu journalists present at the meeting at Marcelo B. Fernan Cebu Press Center shared how difficult it was to report amid the lack of financial muscle to purchase communication equipment that could not be silenced by Yolanda.

Jason Baguia, who moderated the discussion, lists below the points raised by the CCPC members and guests:

1. Media practitioners in affected areas are also victims and have a hard time reporting in the wake of the storm.

2. Domestic media need equipment that is on par with what their foreign counterparts use to report in times of disaster.

3. Local and foreign journalist must seek ways to work together to keep the public informed.

4. Journalists who cover harrowing events also need stress debriefing.

5. Satellite phones should be standard tools for reporting in times of calamity when communication tends to bog down.

6. Reporters who arrive first at ground zero should be the first to disseminate information without keeping it from other news outfits.

7. Journalists in online social media have an obligation to make their posts accessible to as many people as possible. They should also shoot down false information.

8. Competition between news organizations is out of place in times of calamity. The competitor in the journalist must give way to the humanitarian.

9. No story is worth dying for. Reporters should be safe in covering disasters and must not be compelled to work in the middle of a cataclysm.

10. Coverage must respect the privacy of victims. Human beings must not be used as artworks or backdrops to reporting disaster.

11. Interviewers must be sensitive to survivors when asking them questions so that the latter do not end up reliving the ordeal they went through.

12. Broadcast networks that can run relief operations must report about these for the sake of transparency, but must refrain from navel-gazing. Relief works led by other organizations are worth covering, too.

During the meeting, the CCPC members also approved a resolution to recognize two Cebu journalists for their achievements and to express their appreciation to the groups that selected them for distinction.

Sun.Star Network Exchange editor-in-chief Nini Cabaero received the Sandra Burton-Nieman Fellowship for Filipino Journalists from the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation in a selection process supervised by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

The fellowship involves a year-long study grant at Harvard University in the United States.

Cebu Daily News publisher and acting editor-in-chief Eileen Mangubat, on the other hand, was named the 2013 Marshall McLuhan Fellow by The Embassy of Canada.

The fellowship, with financial support from Sun Life of Canada, includes a lecture tour of Canadian media and academic organizations, and a lecture tour in the Philippines. Cherry Ann T. Lim

 

Tags: Articles and Papers on Media Issues · Record of meetings