The Citadel Investigation of a Possible E Coli Outbreak in Salinas City Discussion: Political Science Answers 2021

The Citadel Investigation of a Possible E Coli Outbreak in Salinas City Discussion: Political Science Answers 2021

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The Citadel Investigation of a Possible E Coli Outbreak in Salinas City Discussion

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Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication: Be First. Be Right.
Be Credible.
CERC: Working with
the Media
Last Updated: 2014
CERC: Working with the Media
This chapter will review the following:
The media?s role in a crisis, disaster, or emergency
Interacting with the media
Facilitating positive media relationships
Giving reporters what they need
Getting emergency information to the media
Writing for the media during a crisis
Meeting media needs throughout an emergency
Responding to media regarding significant errors, myths and misperceptions
Understanding the Media?s Role in Disasters
Disasters are major media events. Public health emergencies
will engage the media, especially if an emergency is exotic,
catastrophic, or the first of its kind. The media are a constant
presence in our lives and play a critical role in informing
the public during any crisis or disaster. It?s natural for those
responding to a public health emergency to think of the media as
a bother and distraction, but a better understanding of their role
in an emergency will improve the relationship.
For example, if a public health emergency involves the
intentional release of infectious or chemical agents, the media
will spin into high gear. Because of its inherent threat, an act of
bioterrorism is guaranteed to receive media attention. The public
is always anxious to learn about the resolution of the health
crisis and subsequent criminal investigations and will often turn
to the media for this information.
The mainstream media, those media organizations that are wellknown and established, have changed greatly since 2000. Many
media organizations have contracted their services or merged
with other organizations.1 Audiences for print and television
network news are smaller and older. Many younger people
rely on Web-based news sources. Much of Web-based content
CERC: Working with the Media
?The media can assist in predisaster education. They may be
crucial to an effective warning
process. They can provide
information and advice to victims
and others in the wake of disasters.
They can help activate the local
disaster response. The can assist in
stimulating effective disaster relief.?
Joseph Scanlon,
Suzane Alldred,
Al Farrell, and
Angela Prawzick,
Coping with the Media in Disasters:
Some Predictable Problems,
Public Administration Review, 1985
is driven by the mainstream media and many audiences still rely on traditional media such as print,
television, and radio, as their primary news sources.2 Media audiences are increasingly fragmented. No
single source of information can be expected to reach everyone. In fact, there are some people who do
not regularly read, watch, or listen to much news from any sources.
The Media?s Role in a Crisis, Disaster, or Emergency
Most of us are familiar with the Emergency Broadcasting System. It was created in 1963 as a way to
use public broadcast channels to alert the public of an immediate threat. In 1997, it was renamed the
Emergency Alert System. This system alerts the public by doing the following:
Telling the public something is happening and that they need to pay attention
to receive additional information
Directing the public to sources of additional information they can use to
protect themselves from a potential risk
The Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS) aims to combine the country?s public warning
systems, including EAS, Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), and National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio All Hazards.3 CMAS uses cellular mobile device
technology to deliver alerts directly to the public. While CMAS and related text alert systems will
become increasingly important, the traditional media will continue to play a critical role as a source for
information following an alert.
The media continue to serve as an important emergency information system during a crisis and they
do this very well. Professional media representatives that recognize their role in public safety serve
communities around the nation.
Because of their immediacy, television and radio are particularly important in crises that develop
quickly. Radio is very resilient and flexible. In many cases, local stations have switched format to
provide 24-hour coverage of an event, including call-ins. In other cases, radio stations have linked up
with social media and Web systems like Google Maps to provide robust, real-time disaster information
services.4,5,6 In the past, organizations had 24 hours to get information to media outlets. Now, media
outlets can provide immediate and continuous updates on a crisis through contributions from people
experiencing the crisis. These contributors provide information by calling in on cell phones and sending
information, such as pictures, video, and updates on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. This
has increased the demand on organizations to keep pace with information delivery. This is done by
using both traditional media and social media channels to provide information and updates on the crisis
response both immediately and continuously.
CERC: Working with the Media
In a democracy, the media also serve as a watchdog. This means they report on the activities of public
institutions and government, informing the public so that officials can be held accountable. During a
crisis, this may translate into investigative reporting about the following issues:
Adequacy of the response
Typically, investigative reporting takes a back seat during early stages of a crisis. But, at some point
reporters will ask more challenging and probing questions. The media generally work according to
emerging and somewhat informal agendas. This means current issues will be covered and related stories
will likely follow. For example, during the 2011 radiological incident in Fukushima, Japan, reporters
began looking at the general topic of nuclear safety. They then reported on the safety of U.S. facilities.7
Similarly, influenza season or tornado season will result in a series of related articles.
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 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 from 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.
CERC: Working with the Media
Interacting with the Media
It is important to understand that reporters will not allow you to simply feed them headlines without
asking questions. They will decide what to tell their viewers or listeners about what is occurring. Don?t
treat them like members of your staff. Offer suggestions, but do not dictate. This will help you establish
a cooperative relationship.
Reality Check
Reporters may seem sensitive to your needs and requirements. You may think reporters
are eager to print only positive news about your organization or agency. The reality is that
reporters have an obligation to report the facts objectively, even if they feel those facts are
contrary to your organization?s goals. When an issue has national significance, reporters will
probably show some distance:
Reporters have a job to do, and they will do what it takes to get it done.
The relationship between reporters and public health communicators will be more
No favors should be expected from either side.
As a crisis unfolds, expect a widening gap between what emergency managers believe the media should
cover (or not) and what reporters want to know. You should do the following:
Remember that it is the journalist?s job to provide balance by looking for alternative perspectives
and interpretations of events, and ensuring that other points of view receive coverage.
Make your points clearly and consistently. Keep it easy for journalists to do their jobs. This
enhances the effectiveness of communication during a crisis.
If the media present incorrect information, especially if it could be harmful to the public, you
should quickly communicate correct information to the public and the media.
Expect only limited success in influencing that part of the crisis coverage devoted to debate,
discussion, and speculation. This is especially true in the 24-hour news arena.
Remember that emergency managers and reporters or commentators see stories from different
angles. What seem like facts to you might seem less black-and-white to
reporters and commentators.
The Poynter Institute for Journalism provides useful advice for journalists covering disasters.8 Poynter
emphasizes that reporters are often unprepared to cover events with complex scientific issues. They
explain that acquiring background information is important to getting the story right. Journalists should
CERC: Working with the Media
be aware that they are often putting themselves in harm?s way when covering a disaster.9 A media
organization may also be affected by the disaster. This means its ability to function may be impaired at
the very moment the public most needs timely, accurate information. The Poynter Institute offers five
tips for journalists covering disasters:
Be more tolerant of uncertainty inherent to a disaster.
Find out who is really in charge.
Dig for deeper context to the story.
Look for takeaways, including lessons learned.
Find evidence to support anecdotes and critically assess the evidence.
Facilitating Positive Media Relationships
Equal Access Matters
In the first critical hours or days of an emergency, fairness is of utmost importance. The most ethical
way for a public agency to facilitate media relationships is to provide all media outlets with the same
access at the same time. Through the use of good planning with prearranged e-mail addresses, fax
numbers, and onsite media opportunities, you can maintain fairness.
Don?t ignore the parameters of the journalist?s job; they have space and time to fill, and deadlines to
meet. One way to destroy effective professional relationships with the media is to ignore their needs. It
is imperative that you provide equal access to information and help journalists acquire that information:
Distribute messages that are essential to the well-being or safety of the public equally.
Use teleconferencing so reporters in remote locations can participate.
Attempt to give journalists a reasonable time frame in which new information will be provided.
Establish a schedule for information releases. Everyone involved will appreciate some ground
rules. Base ground rules on the type and phase of the crisis.
Understand journalism deadlines and work to accommodate them. During a crisis, it is important
to be available?if necessary, around the clock?to help reporters get the facts right, before
their deadline.
Even print media outlets face short deadlines because of their online Web editions. In the past, response
to media inquiries could be prioritized by their deadlines. Today, most media outlets have the same
deadlines, and this requires a revamping of the way emergency information is provided. In general,
media outlets function in real time or close to it.
CERC: Working with the Media
Reality Check
More than 40,000 media outlets10 operate news activities in the U.S., and many of them are
interested in breaking news, as well as health and medical news:
Providing equal access to information may mean posting the information on your
organization?s Web page, rather than waiting several hours.
Equal access means not discriminating between the local network affiliates and local
independent TV stations.
Equal access means including newspapers, television, and radio stations.
Make a reasonable effort to include as many local media outlets as possible in your media
opportunities. Discuss credentialing of media outlets during the pre-crisis phase or early
during the response to provide access to your EOC media room.
Think Local Media First
Don?t ignore local media in favor of the national media and well-known reporters. National media
reporters have contacts outside the local area to fill in much of what they need. They won?t be
shortchanged. Local media personnel count on local response officials to work with them. Local PIOs
should think local first. At the state level, regional media or border media may take priority. At the
national level, the primary contacts may be from the national media.
International media may also become involved. Responders working at the federal level are more likely
to be contacted by international reporters. Certain events, such as an infectious disease outbreak, have
the potential to directly affect people in other countries. Other events, such as a powerful hurricane,
may be confined to one country but still cause significant damage and loss of life. This will spur the
interest of international media even though other countries were not affected. You will need to prioritize
international media, based on the nature of the event, the degree of international interest, and the
extent to which other countries are affected.
The key is to have consistent information flowing back and forth among local, state, regional, national,
and international levels. If the content of the message is consistent, it is possible to fulfill the needs of
reporters at all levels.
During the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak, information at the local, state, and national levels was
consistent. This happened, in part, because CDC in Atlanta was very open in making information
available, not only to media at all levels, but also to public health partners. Because the outbreak was
global, reporting was occurring at the international level. The international information flow was not
coordinated as well, which created inconsistent reports in the international media.11
CERC: Working with the Media
Reality Check
Americans have been exposed to exaggerations of the occurrence of harmful behavior
following disasters, such as:
Price gouging
Scope-of-disaster estimates
Excessive media coverage of these negative incidents, or the possibility of such incidents,
may lead the public to believe that these behaviors occur at a much higher rate than they
actually do. Coverage analysis for Hurricane Katrina found that while national newspapers
were more likely to report rumors, local and regional newspapers appeared to be more
deliberate in not reporting rumors and not publishing sensational photos of the disaster.12
Giving Reporters What They Need
What Do Reporters Want?
Reporters want and need the following:
Timely answers to their questions
Access to experts
Visuals to support their news stories
These needs are the same in an emergency, only the time pressure is much greater. When a story is
seen as ?breaking news,? time becomes paramount. Anticipating questions from the media can help you
prepare and respond. The most common media questions in an emergency include:
?What is happening now??
?Who is in charge??
?Are those who got hurt getting help and, if so, how??
?Is the crisis contained??
?What can we expect to happen??
?What should people do or not do??
?Why did this happen?? (Don?t speculate. Repeat the facts of the event, describe the data
collection effort, and describe treatment from fact sheets.)
CERC: Working with the Media
?Did you have any warning this might happen??
?Why wasn?t this kept from happening (again)??
?What else can go wrong??
?When did you begin working on this (e.g., when were you notified of this situation, or when did
you determine this to be true?)??
?What do these data/information/results mean??
?What bad things aren?t you telling us?? (Don?t forget the good.)
The more you anticipate what the media needs, the more effective you will be at the following:
Informing the public
Helping them understand public health actions or recommendations
Gaining public acceptance for public health activities during response and recovery
Background information will give you a head start. This is the information that will not change during
a crisis. For example, if an outbreak involves an organism that is not a new form, its description,
incubation period, and methods of treatment will stay the same. It is easily retrievable, as CDC and
other federal agencies have developed much of the background information reporters need.
Media Operations in a Crisis
Public health emergencies change how an agency conducts daily business. This is true for the media as
well. Media outlets have their own plans to cover major breaking news, and knowing those plans helps
get the right message out.
During nonemergency times, EOC managers should invite local media into the emergency operations
center to explain how things work, the agencies that will be involved in the response, and how
media will be accommodated when the EOC is operating. If possible, there should be a designated
media room located near the command center. This could be used for media opportunities and,
when agreed to, for individual interviews. It?s imperative that
the EOC or the public health department leading the response
remain ready for journalists.
Keeping the media updated with
accurate information reduces
The media onslaught could start in a matter of minutes,
speculation and rumors.
depending on the type of emergency. Natural public curiosity,
the need to fill 24-hour news cycles, and pressure to beat
the competition drive the media to thoroughly cover the
event. Media are most apt to exert pressure as a group. They are all looking for answers to the same
questions at the same time. If official channels cannot meet the media?s needs, experts and outside
authorities will almost instantly be speculating to the media about what officials are or should be doing.
CERC: Working with the Media
This speculation feeds rumors that require corrections. Keeping the media updated with accurate
information reduces speculation and rumors.
During an unfolding emergency, media may not react as they usually do. Expect the following:
Diminished information ver?

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