6 Tips for Dealing With the Media After a Disaster

LIFE - cameramen Photo Credit: Jennifer Beebe

6 Tips for Dealing With the Media Post-Disaster

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

  1. You have options regarding being interviewed. You do not have to speak with the media if you don’t want to. 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. The choice to share your story is up to you and your family. You can always request to do the interview at a different time. or refuse entirely.
  2. You won’t get paid. Generally speaking, 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 and most credible outlets won’t do this.
  3. You can reach out to local media for coverage. 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 its website) and ask to speak with a producer to arrange an interview.
  4. The media can be invasive. The media may set up equipment or shoot live shots from your property. If you don’t want 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. It’s all “on the record.” Many reporters are professional, courteous and very friendly, but keep in mind they are not your friends. Don’t share details that you don’t want in print.
  6. It won’t last forever. While the media may be around for a few days or perhaps longer, they will depart when the media cycle moves on. Other newer stories will become more important to cover.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Beebe

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