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Journalism in a state of emergency

News.com.au live coverage of NSW fires.

At present approximately 100 fires, including 34 uncontained, continue to burn in New South Wales, destroying hundreds of homes and lives in their wake.

It’s a scene that’s all too familiar for the Australian public, particularly Victorians, who will never forget the horrors of Black Saturday.

The media was quick to respond. Last night TV networks threw out their schedules to cover the New South Wales bushfire emergency. Today we see rolling live online coverage from major news outlets.

For many journalists, this event will present one of the toughest assignments of their career.

Aftermath of Black Saturday. Image credit: bootload

In the face of ravaging fires, burnt homes and grieving families, journalists will face pressure to get the story (and get it first).

In the wake of Black Saturday’s coverage, which critics described as “lacking ethical guidelines”, let’s hope we get it right this time around.

Melbourne University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism released a whole report around Black Saturday coverage. It found that intrusion and deception emerged as two major ethical issues abused by journalists gathering material.

It’s certainly not an easy situation.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a journalist who doesn’t want to cover a “big” and dare I say it – potentially career-changing – story.

Journalists want to cover news and they want to it well.

It’s a quality Fairfax journalist, Angela Carey makes no apologies for in piece for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma published a couple of months after Black Saturday.

She also reflected on how deeply her colleagues were affected by the tragedy, long after the day had passed.

As a graduate journalist I have not experience reporting an awful event like Black Saturday or the current NSW fires. But I think the most important thing to remember at times like this is to be human first, journalist second.

That’s what I’ll try to do anyway.

by Hannah McDonald

The Dart Center guide for effective media coverage of tragedies is a great resource for journalists coping with reporting on traumatic events, or those wanting to read up on how to do it should they ever get a job in journalism.

Posted under: Uncategorized
Dated: Oct 18 2013

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