Chilean Media Conference Focuses on Advice for Ethical Disaster Reporting

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The Media Project compiled a list of “five tips for better coverage of disasters” in an Oct. 24 post.  The post reported on some of the “questions covered” during an Oct. 2011 Chilean media conference on “Covering Disasters: a Christian & Ethical View.”

As the Media Project noted, there have been several disasters in Chile, including the 2010 earthquake and tsunami, the 2010 mine collapse trapping 33 miners for 69 days, and a “military airline disaster.”

Among the tips, conference speaker and Media Project CEO Dr. Arne Fjeldstad advised journalists “preserve human dignity” and to put themselves in the place of sources to avoid invading privacy and being insensitive, according to the Media Project. Further, speaker Arturo Figueroa of the newspaper La Hora, reminded journalists to be clear with sources that they are being interviewed by a journalist and information shared may be published.  As such, journalists must be careful to avoid too cozy a relationship with sources.

Another speaker, Chilean journalist Soledad Onetto warned against publishing “death pornography,” defined as ” the repetitious broadcasting of fearsome or morbid images in order to fill long hours of coverage of catastrophes,” the Media Project explained.

And, former Chilean Union of Journalists’ president Abraham Santibáñez called for journalists to “provide context and balance to coverage of disasters,” the Media Project reported.

The Media Project sponsored the two-day long conference, which included international speakers.  According to the Media Project, the Christian Journalists Network (COMUNICA) co-organized the conference.

This is the first time the Media Project has backed a conference focusing on “physical disasters,” but the project has hosted conferences on “genocide…a topic that also can be considered a human made disaster,” the Media Project’s Fjeldstad told StinkyJournalism.  The project hosts “a number of different conerences around the world, with a variety of topics” like corruption in the media in West Africa, according to Fjeldstad.

The Chilean conference had about 25 journalist attendees, according to Fjeldstad.  Most were members of Chilean members. “It is the policy of the Media Project that local conferences are open to any journalist expressing interest in the topics as far as local budgets permit,” Fjeldstad told iMediaEthics.  According to Fjeldstad, speakers addressed reporting on the bombings, interviewing prisoners, reporting on earthquakes and reporting on international disasters.

According to the Media Project’s website, it is “a private, international, self-selected network of working journalists” and members “must be earning at least half their income from an accredited non-religious news organization or journalism-education organization.’  The group is a U.S. non-profit with offices in Washington, D.C. and Norway and notes that it doesn’t have any “religious requirement for our members.”

The Media Project’s CEO, Fjeldstad told iMediaEthics by e-mail that the Media Project has about 500 members in its “international network of journalists” and that the group sponsors “mostly local journalists/journalism groups doing seminars, workshops or one- or two day events.”  He added that the group has “been focusing on challenging and equipping mainstream journalists to cover the role of religion on public life.”


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Chilean Media Conference Focuses on Advice for Ethical Disaster Reporting

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