The media plays a primary role in communicating with the public. No government emergency management organization could ever hope to develop a communications network comparable to those networks already established and maintained by television, radio, and newspaper outlets across the country. To effectively provide timely disaster information to the public, emergency managers must establish a partnership with their local media outlets.
The goal of a media partnership is to provide accurate and timely information to the public in both disaster and non-disaster situations. The partnership requires a commitment by both the emergency manager and the media to work together and it requires a level of trust between both parties.
Traditionally, the relationship between emergency managers and the media has been tenuous. There has often been a conflict between the need of the emergency manager to respond quickly and the need of the media to obtain information on the response so it can report it just as quickly. This conflict sometimes resulted in inaccurate reporting and tension between the emergency manager and the media. The loser in this conflict is always the public, which relies on the media for information.
It is important for emergency managers to understand the needs of the media and the value they bring to facilitating response operations. An effective media partnership provides the emergency manager with a communications network to reach the public with vital information. Such a partnership provides the media with access to the disaster site, access to emergency managers and their staff and access to critical information for the public that informs and ensures the accuracy of their reporting.
An effective media partnership helps to define the roles of the emergency management organizations, to manage public expectations and to boost the morale of the relief workers and the disaster victims. All of these factors can speed the recovery of a community from a disaster event and promote preparedness and mitigation efforts designed to reduce the loss of life and property from the next disaster event.