Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Prepare Newsrooms to Cover Swine Flu: Pandemics are Global Events but Produce Local Stories

"We think of the beats in newsrooms as silos. We're going to have to let go of the silos. I really believe covering pandemic flu is a web with lots of cables connected in it. If you tug on any one of them, all the others start to give.

"The second lesson that I want to offer -- and one I resisted for a long time -- is that I really think that the pandemic story is local, local, local. The fact is, what people feel about a pandemic, whether they're willing to prepare, how well they're preparing, what we really want to tell people is what is happening in the local school district, in your neighborhood cop precinct, and in the shopping mall. That's where the real drama, the real narrative, for those of you who want to do narrative, of pandemic planning and pandemic coverage is going to be.

SHOOT: I'm not getting a sense that the media see the reality of what's happening. We're still in celebrity-zone which is on another planet somewhere, I'm not quite sure where, but it's not here.
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The swine flu spread is not yet pandemic, but the Centers for Disease Control and the President urge us all to be prepared. The World Health Organization raised the pandemic alert level to Phase 4 on Monday. Phase 4 is just short of a full-blown pandemic.

In the event of a pandemic, there could be massive loss of life, deep psychological injury and the economic losses might be impossible to calculate.
Communicating in a Disaster or Pandemic
Trust is the most important thing.
Be as transparent as possible.
Announce early, even when there's incomplete information.
Listen to the public and then plan for the extreme demands of outbreak communication.

Finally, never over-reassure or mislead.

Pandemics are Global Events but Produce Local Stories
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