Too much detail: ‘In disaster reporting we don’t need to show bodies’

Media Workshop on Disaster Reporting focuses on techniques to construct a story.

Express October 29, 2011

KARACHI: In an attempt to educate journalists about reporting dangerous situations, a workshop was organised by Focus Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan, an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network.

More than 25 media professionals were instructed on how to write news stories effectively and how to behave during disasters. The workshop was titled, “Media Workshop on Disaster Reporting” and was conducted by Abbas Hussain, the director of Teachers Development Centre and an expert on developmental communication. The session focused on advanced writing skills, techniques for harnessing thoughts to write effectively for both print and electronic media, and the code of conduct for journalists.

Hussain discussed the basics of disaster coverage and emphasised the importance of detail when developing a story. “Taking the views of all stakeholders is vital when reporting disasters,” he said. According to him, hazard identification, damage and risk assessment, strong communication, hazard avoidance measures and creating awareness were the key elements.

“I believe that thoughts are incoherent,” said Hussain, when talking about writing. “There is no such thing as thinking before writing. There is only the intention to write.” He said that thoughts did not bring words to paper but they formed simultaneously while writing.

He told the participants of a technique called “cubing” to help them construct a story. It involves building a topic from six aspects, which are description, analysis, comparison, application, association and argument - either for or against the topic.

“Every reporter has a responsibility to fulfil for both, their agency and also the public,” said the Hussain. “When photographing, the consent of subjects, especially women, is essential.”

He criticised the Pakistani media for displaying unnecessary details, especially the visuals. “When there was an earthquake in Japan not a single body was shown,” he asserted. “But when disaster strikes Pakistan, bodies are shown openly.” He believed that the gory content contributed in generating negative emotions among viewers and readers.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2011.


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Zara | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

I would like to add that the Pakistani media misses out on another aspect that is an integral part of disaster news coverage in the developed world: stories of courage, hope, and survival. Many individuals, like doctors and rescue workers, render services that deserve to be lauded. These stories rarely make it into disaster news coverage here.

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