Journalists have a responsibility to report information they believe is honest and objective. Public health and emergency management professionals sometimes expect the media to report in a way that supports official goals. However, the media are not an adjunct to public emergency response organizations. They have their own place in a free society and their own commitment to the public. Emergency management planners should acknowledge the media’s role in a crisis and plan to meet reasonable media requests. Few reporters, editors, directors, or producers will abandon their efforts to obtain information and provide perspective on a crisis just because you don’t want them involved.
It’s imperative that emergency operation centers (EOCs) and all government and nongovernmental organizations involved in crisis response understand the appropriate needs of the media and how to fulfill those needs as an ongoing and well thought-out part of the response plan. This approach deliberately includes the media in the response.
Can you imagine emergency response if the media were not involved? The absence of mass media would make it nearly impossible for the EOC and public officials to communicate the nature of the crisis and the appropriate actions citizens should take to limit their harm. You may find your response team in trucks with bullhorns moving through neighborhoods, telling people where to find shelter or not to drink the water rom their faucets without purifying it. However, for many public health emergencies, such as those involving infectious disease outbreaks, the community infrastructure will be in place, electricity will continue to flow, buildings will stand, and roads will be clear. In these circumstances, traditional media outlets will quickly communicate important information to the public. Even with the advent of social media, most people will still want to confirm information through television and radio.