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Storms are dangerous enough without fear-mongering media

The news media's job is to provide timely information. At no time is timely information more important than during the typhoon season, when the accuracy of information can be the difference between life and death. It is during the typhoon season, however, that local TV channels are the most given to dramatization and entertainmentization of news.

The local United Daily News (UDN) reported yesterday that TV news channels spiced up typhoon reports with exaggerated descriptions and file footage of past floods, leading worried viewers to contact their families and friends in the “disaster zones” of Central and Southern Taiwan.

According to the newspaper, one such anxious call was made by Pingtung Magistrate Tsai Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) to Linbian Village Chief Cheng Shin-cheng (鄭信政), questioning why Cheng did not notify him of the serious floods reported in the news. Cheng checked, but there was no flood. A local representative suggested that the media covered Linbian — which was seriously damaged in a flood in 2009 — in their “chase of excitement” despite the reduction of flooding risks by recent improvements in the village. Cheng criticized the media's lack of fact-checking which puts the burden of clarification on local governments that are busy with what they should be doing — engaging in disaster prevention efforts.

Cheng was joined by Zhuang Jin-chong (莊進忠), secretary of the emergency center in Sinyi Village, Nantou County, who also complained of the challenge of handling the typhoon on one hand and the storm of exaggerated reports on the other. Zhuang pointed out that TV news reported with screaming headlines the “emergency evaluation” of 400 due to a landslide-triggered dam collapse in Shenmu Village and 10-day-old file footage of serious flooding in the village, dramatizing an orderly evaluation put in place as a preventative measure. The cable channel explained that the footage was used only “to remind people to be careful.”

June 24, 2012    mkhazlett@
This "dramatization" by the media is, sadly, not just found in Taiwan. It is part-and-parcel of newscasts the world over...what I refer to in my public relations classes at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts, as "breathless reporting" intended to arouse in the viewer some feeling of excitement (or anxiety) and make the reporter seem as if he or she is the viewer's "exclusive peephole" into whatever the incident being reported is. Simple, factual reporting of the news has taken a backseat to "glitz and glamour" in today's visual media world.
June 24, 2012    miller.henry641@
Excellent and timely editorial.
Persons with any familiarity of the sad state of the "TV Media" here on Taiwan quickly understand that it is for amusement and entertainment only.

Although one must give them credit for their "Food Coverage" which makes up a significant % of their "news."

This shoddy TV reportage does present outlets, such as Chinapost.com.tw, with an opportunity.

Using their outstanding website to provide timely coverage in these outlying areas would be a great service to the people of Taiwan.
Having a 'real-time' feed of what is really happening and posting information with those in charge of disaster efforts would certainly help.

I hope that the China Post will seek to remedy this news debacle in this all too common area of confusion.

The people of Taiwan deserve it and the technology to give it is already in place.
June 25, 2012    major_bob1@
I agree that the TV news in Taiwan should be judged purely for its entertainment value -- not journalism. It is really, really bad and only getting worse.
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