By Sawyer Pollitt, Staff Writer
This month, Hurricane Florence tore it’s way through the American South leaving devastation in its wake. However, along with the destruction of personal property, land, and unfortunately, human lives, it seems that Florence also destroyed the concept of journalistic integrity.
Every natural disaster demands a massive news cycle and this one is no different. News stations are reporting on the hurricane around the clock and they have a very important job. To inform the public. Unfortunately, for the public, weather reporters have been caught exaggerating the impact and scale of the hurricane, and there is no place for hyperbole in ethical journalism.
A video recently surfaced from the Weather Channel where one of their reporters is seen struggling against the mighty winds of Hurricane Florence. The rain is beating his face, the wind is nearly knocking him off of his feet, and in the background, two men are seen calmly walking with seemingly no regard for the storm around them. Are they super humans? Or is the reporter exaggerating the strength of Florence?
It’s clear that this reporter, and the station he represents is abusing their power and position as trusted informers of society to sensationalize a natural disaster. Which is wrong.
Sensationalism in news is no new phenomenon. The public has come to accept it now as a fact of the entertainment-driven media that is consumed on a regular basis. Most of the time, this style of reporting can and should be ignored in favor of more accurate information. This changes though in the case of acts of God. People deserve to have access to the best information they can get as fast as they can get it.
In the case of Hurricane Florence and all natural disasters for that matter, people are looking to the news for up to date, accurate, information that can directly impact their survival.
By presenting misleading information, there is a very real chance that this news organization could be directly contributing to the deaths of people in the path of Hurricane Florence.
Ultimately, it is quite hard to direct the blame for this mistake. One could say that it is the fault of the news station for putting profits and views ahead of their duty as a disseminator of information. Betraying the public in their quest for monetary gain.
The reporter does not get off the hook either. When assigned the job to cover the weather the reporter had the option to decline the story. His job may have been on the line, but his integrity would have held and he would have done a service to the profession. It is irresponsible to think of this as “just a job” or “just a story” when every instance of misinformation contributes go the decline of public faith in televised news media.
It is the responsibility of a news person to do their job to the best of their ability and take their job and their role seriously. Disinformation is a sad part of news and all of us in the information business should be doing our part to eliminate, not perpetuate it.
PHOTO COURTESY: NPR