In the News: Reporting on Disasters

After a major disaster - fire, natural disaster or other catastrophe - local and sometimes national media will arrive on the scene.

  1. The range of media outlets (TV, radio, sites, blogs, newspapers, and local vs. national vs. international) will depend on the scale of the tragedy.

    For Hurricane Katrina, some news outlets covered the event for months.

    The media will be looking for first-hand witnesses and survival accounts of the disaster and they might ask to interview you and your family.

    • Understand that you do not have to speak with the media if you don't want to. The choice to share your story is up to you and your family.
    • The questions they ask might be a bit personal or they might be difficult to answer, seem rather obvious or stupid, especially when dealing with the initial shock of disaster. You can always request to do the interview at a different time.
  2. Understand that the media will most likely refuse to pay you for your time and your story. It is against journalistic ethics to offer money for a story, most credible outlets won't do this.
  3. If you would like to tell your story or share images with a particular TV station, newspaper or reporter, you can try to request this. Contact the station's tip or hotline number (usually on their web site) and ask to speak with a producer to arrange an interview.
  4. The media might be a bit invasive, such as setting up equipment or shooting live shots from your property. If they do this, you have the right to ask them to leave since it is private property.
    • Report any problems you might have with the media to the local police or other law enforcement officials.
  5. Many reporters are professional, courteous and very friendly; but keep in mind they are not your friends.
  6. Understand that the media will be around for a while (usually a few days or perhaps longer) until the media cycle has moved on. Other newer stories will become more important to cover.