Monday, May 13, 2019

Reporting on Disasters should not be Disasters

A retired journalist writing on media literacy in the Catholic Weekly mentions the word  'Giraegi'  often heard these days. Not known in the past but appears often on lips and in print.

Here is a definition from the Wikipedia dictionary: "Compound word of 'reporter' and 'garbage'. In the Republic of Korea, false facts and exaggerated inflated articles significantly reduce the level of journalism and its place in society."

This expression became a common concept after the sinking of the Sewol Ferry on April 16, 2014. Most of the media were reported to be disordered and were censured by the family of victims and citizens. Some young reporters reported on their in-house network of the 'Giraegi journalism' they experienced.

Criticism of the media was on their relying on government inconsistent and inaccurate reporting without verification. Taking pictures without permission and other insensitivity shown during the tragedy. This showed to many the dysfunction of the media.

Media outlets have again prepared rules for the reporting of disasters, but does it need more confusion and sacrifice before the rules become reality? There were many tragic accidents after the Sewol disaster, but nothing has basically improved. When there was a disaster, not many in the media monitored the disaster preparedness and critiqued the reporting.

In 2015 Korea was attacked by the 'Mers virus' (Middle East repiratory problem, also called camel flu) Here again much of the media was obsessed with breaking the news without observing the accuracy of the reporting. There was a lot of false reporting at the time. It was badly handled.

Last month we had the wild fires in Gangwon Province which caused much damage and loss of life and forcing many to evacuate their homes. Here we saw that some reported as if present and were not, and did not broadcast in sign language for the hearing impaired which is necessary for reporting disasters.

The principles of reporting  disasters: accuracy, rescue and saving of life procedures primary, minimization of damage, reporting on preventive information, prohibition of unethical coverage,  control and attention to area, operation of an on-site desk, restraint in unreasonable press competition, handling of  official information, verification of sources, restraint in emotional expression, careful of personal details, care for the victims, prudent in interviews with victims and young people, correction and evaluating other opinions etc.

We have still a long way to go in following these regulations. We need to educate  ourselves in media literacy and  watch how reporting is done and  be able to criticize what we see and  hear and we will   rid society of  'Giraegi'  journalism.

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