The Media and Disasters

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1994-03-01
  • Publisher: New York Univ Pr

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The lucidly written, sobering account of how the press fared in covering the tragedy and how news organizations might improve on their disasters coverage in the future.--QuillOn a bitter December night in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, the Maid of the Seas, flying from Frankfurt to New York, exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. Among the victims were citizens from over 21 countries, 11 villagers, and 35 Syracuse University students returning home from studying abroad. The bombing set in motion a drama of epic proportions, played out on television screens and newspaper pages around the world.Scenes from the tragedy etched themselves on the public consciousness: a screaming mother at Kennedy Airport, collapsing upon learning of the fate of her child; flames engulfing the modest homes of Lockerbie; weeping Syracuse University students in mourning at a basketball game; the mangled cockpit of the jumbo jet resting in an idyllic Scottish meadow.Behind these scenes, another drama unfolded: Hundreds of journalists swarmed to the traumatized village. In New York, scores of reporters, photographers, and cameramen rushed to the airport to record the reactions of bereaved family members. All over the country, people watched the names of the dead scrolling across their televisions, many praying for those presumed to be on board. The disaster also engulfed institutions, many unprepared to mediate between the public's need for informations and the need for privacy by those most affected.In engrossing detail, THE MEDIA AND DISASTERS chronicles the story behind the headlines, illustrating how the media and the people it encounter in pursuit of the news experienced and affected the journalistic process. The book addresses, in narrative fashion, the universal themes common to most tragedies, emphasizing the increasingly powerful role of the media and its agents in representing such catastrophes to the world.Joan Deppa and her coauthors, all of whom witnessed the effects of this media coverage at Syracuse University, focus on reactions to the disaster--individual and collective. Journalists, police, government officials, rescue workers, and witnesses all had to make important ethical decisions immediately, under conditions of great stress:--how should families of the victims be informed?--What could journalists do to get the story without adding to the distress of grieving families and friends?--should the terrible human carnage of such a disaster be conveyed--in words, in photographs, on television?One particularly telling debate on these issues pits editors of the New York Daily Newsagainst those of Newsday.The destruction of Flight 103 forever altered the media landscape. It marked a watershed moment in media history, a turning point in the global coverage of disasters. Just as the Gulf War was piped directly into living rooms two years later, disasters were now live events. THE MEDIA AND DISASTERS is must reading for anyone interested in journalism, communications, the evolution of the media, and institutional responses to disaster.

Author Biography

Joan Deppa teaches in the Newspaper Department of the Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
The Tragedy
December 21, 1988p. 9
Survivorsp. 12
Lockerbie shatteredp. 12
Kennedy Airportp. 28
Death in the familyp. 36
Young people mourn: Syracuse Universityp. 50
What survivors sharep. 62
Newsgatherersp. 69
On the scene: Lockerbiep. 69
Behind the barrier: Kennedy Airportp. 99
A tale by two newspapers: New Yorkp. 115
The local story: Syracusep. 131
Reporting reviewed: perceptions, practices and ethicsp. 168
Institutional Responsep. 203
The Scottish Officep. 203
Scottish Policep. 213
Pan American World Airwaysp. 223
Syracuse Universityp. 236
Contrasting responsesp. 249
The Aftermath
The Changing Role of Survivors: From Victim to Advocatep. 267
The Media Awareness Group: Lockerbie's Responsep. 290
After the Traumap. 302
Reflectionsp. 315
Text notesp. 325
Referencesp. 334
Indexp. 341
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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