An Ethical Disaster

We often watch news reporters and journalists shoving microphones and cameras in distressed and vulnerable people’s faces. At the height of a natural disaster, a journalists job is to be there reporting on the face of the disaster. Journalists have such a large impact on the outcome of what the world sees, they enable the public to view what is currently happening and can easily position us to feel a particular way. I know myself, being evacuated when the recent wattle grove/ Holsworthy fires came within 10 metres of my families back fence, my 17 year old brother was asked for an interview over our fence and asked if the camera crew could come through and take a look through our home. Being sensitive during these times of stress and vulnerability is vital is ensuring the ethically correct actions to take as a reporting journalist.



Dr Denis Muller states that “By failing to obtain consent, a journalist may be either coercing or exploiting someone for the purpose of obtaining a story.” This is a vital step in ensuring the correct codes of practice are being followed by all journalist and reporters. The MEAA journalists code of ethics states that “Respect for truth and the public’s right to information are fundamental principles of journalism. Journalists search, disclose, record, question, entertain, comment and remember. They inform citizens and animate democracy. They scrutinise power, but also exercise it, and should be responsible and accountable.” All journalists and reporters should take this and abide by this when reporting on natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes etc.

An example of this is the 2011 earthquake in Japan, the media focused on the disasters effects on the global economy crisis and emphasised the interconnectedness of the global economy. This involved the sale of smartphones and production of cars etc. “The shocks of the earthquake, in other words, were felt as shocks to the global economy, as automotive factories around the world has to shut down and the stock market reeled” discussed an article debating the ethically correct behaviour of journalists. Media recordings of schools and local streets of Japan showed people running for shelter or scrambling to find hard hats to put on to protect themselves. In this situation, ensuring that people are asked for consent before interviews and ensuring that people’s privacy is kept as a priority it vital in ensuring the ethically correct codes of practice among journalists.

Another example is in the same year, the Toowoomba/ Lockyer Valley flash floods which resulted in 21 deaths and the mass destruction of houses, businesses, towns and road structures. An article assessing the ethical nature of journalists during this disaster stated that “Global audiences flocked to YouTube and Facebook and were shocked by the pictures of flash flooding washing away cars from the 2 streets of a city on top of a mountain, lifting cars off a major highway and sweeping houses off concrete slabs in the Lockyer Valley” The video included shows devastating footage of the effects of the floods including people standing on their roofs being rescued by helicopters and cars floating along the streets in a wash of a wave.

To conclude, journalists and reporters should be sensitive when reporting on natural disasters such as the earthquakes in japan and the flash floods in Toowoomba. Obtaining consent when interviewing and showing empathy will help to further build connections and follow the correct guides for the codes or practice.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s