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Disaster reporting ‘must be clear and comprehensible’

The need for journalists to ensure their reporting of disasters is fully understandable to even less educated people was among the themes that emerged at the ABU climate control summit in Jakarta.

“The message must be comprehensible,” US-based television meteorologist and hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross of The Weather Channel said on the final day of the Media Summit on Climate Change, ICTs and Disaster Risk Reduction.

Speaking at a session in which the main themes of the summit were summed up, he said broadcasters could not disregard the less educated and needed to ensure their disaster coverage was clear and unambiguous.

Ermilian Heriachandra, a Communications Consultant to Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, made a similar point, saying reporting of disasters should be down to earth to ensure it reached even the poorly educated, who were often among those worst affected.

Toshiyuki Sato, Special Controller at NHK International in Japan, said there was no end to the need for broadcasters to keep improving their disaster coverage and early warning reporting.

The President of the Portuguese and English Press Association of Macau, João Francisco Pinto, said it was important for TV news anchors to convey a sense of urgency during disasters instead of retaining their usual calm.

He noted that Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, trained its anchors to convey the right sense of urgency during disasters to ensure viewers understood the gravity of the situation.

The ABU’s Director Technology, Amal Punchihewa, said broadcasters should adopt the latest technologies in their disaster coverage, and needed to understand both the power and the limitations of new media.

*Reported for the ABU by Allan Williams