Storms are dangerous enough without fear-mongering media
The China Post news staff
June 23, 2012, 12:14 am TWN
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."