Funding plea for media crisis coverage

Limited funding of reporters for field visits and an increase in “crisis fatigue” have been identified as barriers to publicising many of the world’s disasters and the work of relief charities, writes Wale Azeez.

As part of a study published on Wednesday, Humanitarian Disasters: A Battle For The Spotlight, journalists were asked to name the main barriers to crisis reporting put lack of funding for field visits top of the list, followed by lack of timely response from groups at the scene.

The study was undertaken by not-for-profit organisations, Reuters AlertNet – part of the Reuters Foundation – and the Fritz Institute. Touted as the largest of its kind to date, the survey examined the dynamics of media coverage of humanitarian relief by speaking to journalists and press relations personnel.

Mark Jones, editor of AlertNet, said: “Certain disasters make the headlines and by doing so dominate public attention. However, many more that are equally as deserving as those in the spotlight go unnoticed. Furthermore, even those disasters in the spotlight often gain a flurry of publicity as the news first breaks, but can be forgotten on a long-term basis.”

The survey also found that the use of celebrities for publicity had “limited use” in the long run, as high death tolls were the most likely factor in press coverage of an emergency.

It said that non-governmental organisations were also under-using the technology and skills that could boost their media relations, inadvertently contributing to limited coverage of these crises. In particular, NGOs’ websites rarely fulfilled journalists’ needs and some even neglected to include contact details “Lack of reporters permanently covering crises, crisis fatigue and insufficient funding for journalist visits are undoubtedly difficult issues to overcome. However, what NGOs can control are their communications with press,” Jones added.

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