Skip to main content

About this book

This book illuminates the concept of disaster communities through a series of international case studies. It offers an eclectic overview of how different forms of media and journalism contribute to our understanding of the lived experiences of communities at risk from, affected by, and recovering from disaster. This collection considers the different forms of media and journalism produced by and for communities and how they may recognise and speak to the different notions of community that emerge in disaster contexts – including vulnerabilities and consequences that arise from environmental destruction and geophysical hazards, the insecurity created by armed conflict and limitations on journalistic freedoms, and result from human (in)action and humanitarian crises.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction: Media, Journalism and Disaster Communities

It is widely recognised that disasters are becoming more frequent, having greater and longer-lasting impacts and increasingly affecting those most vulnerable (Watson, Caravani, Mitchel, Kellet, & Peters, 2015). Climate-related and geophysical hazards—earthquakes, flooding and wildfires in particular—affect millions of people worldwide each year (Guhpa-Sapir, 2018). Disasters are also the consequence of human action or inaction, the failure of people to mitigate and respond to risks that arise from new technology, conflict and lack of governance, amongst others.
Jamie Matthews, Einar Thorsen

Environmental Destruction and Geophysical Hazards


Chapter 2. Brazilian Local and National News Coverage of the Samarco Disaster: A Disaster for the Community, the Corporation or the Environment?

This chapter examines nuances of local and national news coverage of the 2015 collapse of the dam at a Samarco mine in the state of Minas Gerais, which led to widespread contamination of the Doce River basin. As exposures of communities to disaster risks increase in Brazil more quickly than capacities to reduce vulnerabilities (Freitas, The disaster at the Samarco mining barrage: Exposed fracture of Brazil’s limits in disaster risk reduction. Science and Culture, 68(3), 25–30, 2016), and as global demand for energy, minerals and other resources continues to target Latin America (e.g. Casey and Krauss, It doesn’t matter if Ecuador can’t afford this dam. China still gets paid. The New York Times, 2018; Serapio & Xu, Vale eyes expansion of Brazil iron ore mine to feed Chinese demand. Reuters, 2018), it is imperative that news media go beyond short-term, episodic coverage tied to official narratives, to provide in-depth, community-oriented discussions that foster long-term resiliency. This case study of local and national news coverage asked how local media defined the disaster, presented community agency, victims, vulnerability, and resiliency, and how this compared to national coverage over time.
Paola Prado, Juliet Pinto

Chapter 3. Reporting from the ‘Inner Circle’: Afno Manche and Commitment to Community in Post-earthquake Nepal

Nepal has a collectivist culture, founded on the ‘afno manche’ family system, where the needs of the family and kinships take priority over external obligations. The devastating April 2015 earthquake of 7.8 magnitude threw this into sharp relief, affecting 31 of Nepal’s 75 districts; it killed 8794 people and injured 22,300. This chapter explores the experiences of Nepali journalists as members—in a personal and professional capacity—of disaster-affected communities. It draws on in-depth interviews with journalists and editors based in the city areas of Kathmandu and Patan, as well as regions worst affected by the earthquake: Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot, and Gorkha. The chapter explores the tension between journalists’ professional identity and their emotive response to experiencing the disaster first-hand, as victims and survivors. Respondents revealed tensions between traumatic experience of themselves and their family and their perceived professional duty to report.
Chindu Sreedharan, Einar Thorsen

Chapter 4. Kesennuma’s Building for the Future and Ishinomaki’s Rolling Press: Sharing Localised News of Recovery from Tōhoku’s Disaster-affected Communities

The tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 was an unprecedented disaster, destroying coastal communities in Tōhoku and resulting in the deaths of more than 18,000 people. This chapter evaluates two grassroot media initiatives, the Rolling Press and Kesennuma’s Building for the Future, that were instigated after the disaster to make localised news and information about two recovering communities available in English. By drawing on interviews with contributors, alongside an analysis of the content that they produced, share and continue publish it considers how these projects have attempted to reach audiences that are geographically dispersed and their potential to support disaster recovery. These two cases, the chapter argues, demonstrate how different notions of community may emerge in the context of post-disaster recovery and the potential for such grassroots media projects to meet their information needs, illustrated by the existence and need to cater for a broader community of concern.
Jamie Matthews

Chapter 5. Drought Is a Disaster in the City: Local News Media’s Role in Communicating Disasters in Australia

Australia is a country beset by natural disasters including fires, severe storms, cyclones, droughts and floods. While organisations charged with managing disasters in their various phases are increasingly using social media to distribute information about these events, communities involved in disasters continue to rely on local and community media for information as a disaster unfolds and in its aftermath. This chapter explores the important body of research into news media coverage of natural disasters in Australia and in doing so highlights the crucial role of local media and community media for communities affected by disaster. This body of research shows that these media facilitate disaster-affected communities’ active engagement with reliable information sources and that this contributes to their ability to deal with disasters effectively. The chapter concludes by highlighting the need for further research and providing suggestions about the shape and direction that research might take.
Jacqui Ewart

Chapter 6. Media and Climate Migration: Transnational and Local Reporting on Vulnerable Island Communities

Climate-induced migration is a global challenge that affects specific local communities unevenly. This chapter addresses it as an issue of climate justice via three cases concerning U.S. islands: Sarichef Island in Alaska, Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana and Puerto Rico. The cases were selected for their similarities and differences concerning poverty, indigenous populations and rights, and political representation. These aspects correspond to three dimensions of injustice: economic, cultural and political. By applying multimodal critical discourse analysis to a small sample of newspaper articles for each case, the chapter explores how climate migration is understood in local and transnational media, and if and how issues of justice appear in selected news coverage. Findings indicate that transnational journalism tends to focus on economic injustice and scalar transcendence (local–global scales), while local journalism uniquely integrates scales as well as justice dimensions.
Anna Roosvall, Matthew Tegelberg, Florencia Enghel

Armed Conflict and Journalistic Freedoms


Chapter 7. Changing the Story of Urban Violence in El Salvador: The Crónica, the Community, and Voices from the Ganglands

With more than a million unique visitors per month, the online news portal El Faro in El Salvador has become one of Latin America’s most trusted news sites. Their journeys deep into the country’s gang culture have produced award-winning journalism and fostered a deeper understanding of what is a complex social phenomenon. The journalism of El Faro therefore constitutes a direct challenge to the dominant representation of the country’s marginalised communities. This chapter argues that by deconstructing the victim/perpetrator dichotomy its reporters can explore structural issues, which may in turn promote social cohesion and provide a deeper contribution to our understanding of urban violence. Through the inclusion of voices from the ganglands, El Faro provides a space in which those who live on the edges of society can voice a perspective. This inclusive journalism encourages social cohesion and reconstitutes the notion of community to emphasise the importance of human connection.
Mathew Charles

Chapter 8. Oscillating Between Alienation and Frustrated Engagement: The Study of Donbas Residents’ Response to Conflicting Narratives in the Media

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine that unfolded in the Donbas region of Ukraine has caused significant loss of life and triggered a humanitarian crisis. This chapter examines how communities in Donbas have been navigating different media, accessing news sources amidst the conflict and making sense of the diverse and often contradictory information that is presented to them through the media. A particular focus for the analysis is placed on local media and their use by audiences in Donbas against a backdrop of deteriorating trust in national media. The chapter argues that while this context has created opportunities for local media, they have largely failed to provide a credible alternative to the mainstream national media. Instead, local groups and community pages on social media have performed some of the functions of local media by meeting the information needs of conflict-affected communities.
Dariya Orlova

Chapter 9. “Bloodbath, Invasion, Massacre”: Idoma Voice and the Framing of the Farmer-Herder Conflict in Benue State, Nigeria

The farmer-herder clashes in Nigeria, that are of particular concern in the north-central region of the country, have in recent years received increased attention from the media. This chapter examines coverage of the farmer-herder conflict in Idoma Voice, a local newspaper in Benue State, Nigeria. The analysis demonstrates that Idoma Voice emphasised the violent aspects of the conflict and its associated consequences, failing to consider broader issues and its underlying causes. It also shows a paucity of personal or human-interest stories and an absence of ethnoreligious frames in coverage of the conflict by Idoma Voice. In conclusion, the chapter argues that local journalists, familiar with issues within their own conflict-affected communities, might not resort to simplistic and polarising ethnoreligious frames as is often found in the national or international coverage of the same issues.
Confidence Uwazuruike

Chapter 10. Media and Reconciliation: A Study of Media-Led Initiatives in Post-IS Mosul

The liberation of Mosul from IS in July 2017 has left the city with a considerable number of challenges as reconstruction efforts begin. The absence of any clear authority or political will at a national level has seen a greater focus on community-based and civil society-led initiatives to support reconstruction and reconciliation. In the case of media, a number of local media enterprises have begun to play a more significant role in reporting on the key issues that are impacting on socio-political progress in the newly liberated territories. Based on fieldwork that took place in Iraq during 2018, this chapter examines some of the developments that have occurred in post-IS Mosul, considering both the achievements and failings of media and, in particular, those of local media, in the context of the complexities of reconciliation efforts in Iraq.
Aida Al-Kaisy

Human (In)action and Humanitarian Crises


Chapter 11. Is Local Journalism Failing? Local Voices in the Aftermath of the Grenfell and Lakanal Fire Disasters

When the Grenfell fire tragedy struck in 2017, the world watched in horror. Social media buzzed with comments, questions and demands for meaningful intervention. The local press was also blamed for failing to identify a disaster ‘foretold’. This chapter compares local press treatment of the previous major fire in London at Lakanal House in 2009 with its response to the Grenfell fire. After Lakanal House voices were amplified by local media creating a running story and investigating the causes and consequences of the fire. None of this translated into an adequate public policy response to fire safety. It asks if an emerging fifth estate can fill a news deficit and broaden public discourse to effect change? And whether local voices are, or will be, heard any more clearly to find remedies to disaster? Significantly, it considers whether local journalism can really matter if public authorities ignore the evidence it puts before the public?
Kurt Barling

Chapter 12. Attributes in Community and National News Coverage of the Parkland Mass Shootings

This chapter examines news coverage of the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shootings were unique for several reasons, in particular that several survivors became well known, even controversial activists following the event. News coverage in the 45 days following the shootings in newspapers from communities surrounding Parkland (Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Miami New Times, Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald) and in national-level newspapers (New York Times, USA Today) was compared in regards to how the shootings’ salience, news coverage attributes, and shooter and victims/survivors were presented to news audiences. Results indicate that news coverage of the Parkland shootings was unlike coverage of previous shootings, both from utilizing the future level of time (rather than present) and the individual level of space (as opposed to the more commonly used societal) and by extending past the 30-day lifespan normally afforded to coverage of mass shootings.
Kyle J. Holody

Chapter 13. Informing Refugee Communities in Greece: What Is Possible Within the Parameters of the Humanitarian Structure?

The “humanitarian government” has been critiqued for seeking not only to protect but simultaneously control communities affected by humanitarian crisis. This chapter examines the capacity of humanitarian information projects to meet the information needs of refugees within the constraints of the humanitarian structure. It is informed by the author’s experience working for a media initiative that sought to provide “news-you-can-use” to refugees and migrants during the height of the so-called European Union Refugee Crisis, when thousands of refugees and migrants arrived on Greek shores each day. Stories from Greece demonstrate the range of political, structural and ethical concerns that influenced decisions about what information was provided or withheld. The chapter concludes that there is a need for further research to explore the use of protection logics as a justification for concealing information from affected communities in situations of humanitarian crisis.
Victoria Jack

Chapter 14. When Media Fuel the Crisis: Fighting Hate Speech and Communal Violence in Myanmar

In 2012 and 2017, global media images brought to the world’s attention the plight of Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing from attacks in Myanmar and struggling to survive in overcrowded camps in neighboring Bangladesh. Facebook was widely recognized as exacerbating the violence, leveraged as part of a systematic campaign to create instability in the country. This is especially dangerous in Myanmar, a country in the process of transition from dictatorship. Drawing on an analysis of the public communications between Facebook and Myanmar civil society organizations (CSOs) and in-depth interviews with key local stakeholders, this chapter evaluates the role played by local CSOs in counteracting the immediate dangers and holding Facebook accountable for addressing these problems. This case study can help us begin to identify Facebook’s impact on communities in different contexts, in particular from outside the United States and Europe, which demand the bulk of both academic and popular media attention.
Lisa Brooten

Chapter 15. Afterword: The Shifting Domain of Disaster Journalism

Media, Journalism and Disaster Communities highlights the importance of re-addressing the relationship between media and disasters when the nature of both disasters and media is changing. The different case studies demonstrate that disasters are not just news events, but in addition to impacting communities and societies, they also shape and leave traces on local media ecology. Questions about how international and national news media frame the significance and meaning of disasters and what kind of challenges disasters pose for their news reporting have been at the core of journalism studies. But questions about how local media responds to and is shaped by disasters have been less often visited. Clearly, the social role of local media after a disaster cannot be deduced from studies on national or international media.
Mervi Pantti


Additional information