Sample Communication Essay Paper on Importance of Media Relations during Terrorist Events

Importance of Media Relations during Terrorist Events

Government security agencies and organizations put measures in place to ensure the safety of the citizens within the nation. The measures in place guard against events that may disturb the peace, including criminal, public unrest, natural disasters and terrorist events. Among the most dreaded of these are terrorist events, given the magnitude of the events, the fear and destruction that they leave in their wake. Responding to such events requires a coordinated plan involving local, state, and sometimes federal authorities (DoJ & FEMA, 1999). In addition to the coordinated approach in dealing with such disasters, one of the most important elements of coordination involves reporting to the media in the unfortunate occurrence of a terrorist event. Media relations are especially important, given the potential for additional disaster, confusion, unrest, and fear among the public in the event of inappropriate use of media relations. 

The authorities’ response to any disaster, and particularly terrorist events, follows an emergency operation plan (EOP). DoJ & FEMA (1999) inform that an EOP is a document giving out responsibilities to individuals and organizations in the event of an emergency, marking out authority in the coordination of the emergency plan in addition to describing the process and coordination of individual and property protection during the emergency. EOPs cover three jurisdictions—local, state and federal—providing guidelines for the coordination of the emergency response and recovery with the stipulated jurisdictions (DoJ & FEMA, 1999). Local EOPs draw from state EOPs, even as state EOPs provide the framework for coordination with the federal EOP in the event of large scale disasters that overwhelm the state resources.

Within the EOPs are structures that set out communication and coordination functions of the emergency response teams. Communication is especially important, particularly to the media as it helps the citizens to stay informed of the progress of the response teams. According to Homeland Security (2016), coordination and relaying of information to the media is importance as it helps in the release of accurate and coordinated information. Releasing such coordinated and accurate information thus ensures that the public does not get contradicting information, which may cause panic and distress. Even more is that the media may portray a more accurate picture of the event, given their presence at the scene, and a close relationship with the media may allow the authorities access to vital information towards the coordination of emergency responses (Newman & Clarke, 2008).

Additionally important for relaying information to the media is making the information accessible to the public, particularly those affected by the disaster (Homeland Security, 2016). Terrorist events cause destruction of property, loss and threat to life, and injuries. Those affected by the events need information about their loved ones and their property. Relaying information on the death toll, the names of the deceased and injured, those still missing, and preliminary assessment of the damage keeps the public informed, while allowing those affected to come to terms with the gravity of the event. The information therefore not only allows those affected to start processing the event and its impact on their lives, it also alleviates fear and distraught for those whose loved ones have survived the event. Even more important is the media’s role in providing moral support and reassurance to the citizens. The coordination between first respondents and the medial played a major role in providing reassurance and encouragement in the 9/11 attacks, where the mayor used the media as a conduit (Newman & Clarke, 2008).

Perhaps even more important in media relations is the role the media can play in apprehending suspects of the terror event. DoJ and FEMA (1999) and Newman and Clarke (2008) inform that one of the respondents to terror events is the FBI, which conducts investigations on such events. The FBI, therefore, must relate with the media to release information concerning the suspects, the identities of the suspects, as well as seek the public’s help in apprehending the suspects and getting information about the events before and after the attack, vital to understanding the attack. Such feats are only possible when there is a close and understanding relationship between the authorities and the media.

Authorities’ and media relation in the event of a terrorist attack are important as seen; however, inappropriate use of the media during such events can be disastrous. According to Newman and Clarke (2008), the media’s portrayal of unrest, chaos and panic after such an event may only fuel such chaotic behavior, causing even more insecurity, death, injury, loss, and destruction of property. Even more is that such portrayals can also cause more panic, which may cause security threats at other areas aside from the attack scene.

The lack of inappropriate relations between the media and the authorities can also cause the authorities problems in investigations and in apprehending the suspects. Authorities traditionally know the right moment to release information on the attack. Timely release of such information ensures that the authorities do not compromise their investigations. However, in the absence of the close relationship, the media may release information pertinent to the investigations, essentially crippling the investigation. Moreover, the release of such information prematurely may also tip off the suspects, allowing them to escape apprehension.

References

DoJ & FEMA. (1999). Emergency Response to Terrorism: Self-Study. DoJ & FEMA

Homeland Security. (2016). National Response Framework 3rd Ed. DHS.

Newman, G., R., & Clarke, R., V. (2008). Policing Terrorism: An Executive’s Guide. COPS