Sample Essay On Disaster Myths
Natural disasters have been in existence since time immemorial and people have learned a number of ways in which to cope with such situations. The onset of media has also made it possible for individuals to be informed of natural disasters in advance and ensure that every one is well aware and well prepared (Sontag, 2003). As mass media has grown in the 21st Century, more and more individuals have not only come to learn about but have also imagined and experienced disasters in different ways (Durham, 2008).
Researchers dealing with disasters perceive the media as management tools capable of transforming individuals’ preparedness behaviors and their response to natural disasters (Anker, 2005). Through the media, the audience or in this case, the public, is officially informed of ways of preparing before the impact of the natural event and also receives information on the community’s road to recovery once the natural event has occurred (Sontag, 2003). It has recently been observed that different myths regarding natural disasters and the media’s influence have had an impact on the way people deal with disasters and/or the road to recovery.
In times of response and recovery after a disaster, the media usually concentrates more on the most affected regions, providing the public with information regarding estimates of losses as well as damages (Durham, 2008). This is for the purpose of helping the community in recovery. One of the myths associated with this is that epidemics and plagues are inevitable (Anker, 2005). The relationship between the media and its audience is considered to be driven by contents transmitted by the media. The audience in turn receives and acts as per the information relayed. It is therefore not a wonder to realize that majority of individuals around the world believe this particular myth. The truth of the matter is that plagues and epidemics do not necessarily take place immediately after a disaster, especially because of dead bodies scattered around (Sontag, 2003). Outbreak of diseases after disasters can best be prevented through educating the public and implementing necessary sanitary measures (Durham, 2008).
Another myth related to disasters is that the affected population is too helpless and shocked to be in a position to take up the responsibility of ensuring their survival (Anker, 2005). This is not true because on the contrary, such individuals tend to be stronger and better placed to assist search and rescue units in going through rubbles to find survivors (Sontag, 2003). The relationship between media and the public is also enhanced at this time because they are not only provided with information regarding the aftermath but also find emotional support from it. When Hurricane Katrina struck, much chaos was witnessed in addition to lack of timely government intervention (Durham, 2008). This revealed yet another myth that disaster survivors are in need of used clothing. The fact is that they do not. After Hurricane Katrina, many trucks brought used clothing to survivors but instead of helping, ended up overwhelming the community (Anker, 2005). Bulldozers were later sent to scrape up loads of mildewed clothing (Sontag, 2003).
The relationship between media and public in this day and age, and especially in cases of natural disasters, is crucial in assisting individuals to cope with the aftermath. It is therefore important for the media to provide accurate and necessary information with relations to what may assist the community in the road to recovery, as well as what may not be required during that time. It is also important to understand the role played by the media in disaster situations, keeping the victim’s perspective of the whole situation in mind.
Anker, E. (2005). Villains, Victims, and Heroes: Melodrama, Media, and September 11. Journal of Communication. Pp. 22 – 37.
Durham, F. (2008). Media Ritual in Catastrophic Time: The Populist Turn in Television Coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Journalism vol. 9(1). Pp. 95 – 116.
Illouz, E. (2003). Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery: An Essay on Popular Culture. New York: Columbia University Press.
Sontag, S. (2003). Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.
Tirney, K., Bevc, C., & Kuligowski, E. (2006). Metaphors Matter: Disaster Myths, Media Frames and their Consequences in Hurricane Katrina. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 604. Pp. 57 – 81.