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100 articles – ‘Tips for flood coverage’

How should journalists cover natural disasters? This guide by the Australasian chapter of the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma provides some excellent advice, says Ashley Fritsch, in our latest '100 articles' selection.

‘Tips for Flood Coverage’ by Dart Centre Australasia

When my hometown was hit by floods in January the mass media swarmed in.

One friend had the job of escorting a major-daily newspaper reporter around.  She had come tasked with three specific objectives: to photograph a pregnant lady, a victim in their flood-torn home, and someone skiing on flood waters. Orchestrating the latter, and making light of people’s tragedy, she accomplished all three.  I was horrified.

Enter the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma and its list of ‘Tips for Flood Coverage’, published by the Centre’s Asia Pacific arm during the onset of the January floods.

An initiative of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the Centre’s aim is to provide journalists with resources to deal with violence, tragedy and conflict.  The list of tips encourages journalists to ‘exercise the principle of doing no further harm’ and although they are billed for flood coverage, they can easily be adapted to any other natural disaster.

Given the recent coverage of the media’s actions during these and other disasters, it’s becoming increasingly important that journalists take responsibility for what and whom they are reporting on and the effect they can have on others.

One such tip the reporter in question could have learnt from, ‘stories do not need added sensation. Rely on good, solid, factual journalism and a healthy dose of sensitivity’.

Ashley Fritsch is a journalism honours student at La Trobe University and is the co-ordinating editor of upstart.  She is currently writing a thesis on the history of the Buloke Times and the role of country newspapers.

Want to contribute to our list of the 100 articles every journalist should read about journalism? Full details here.

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