It was a great pleasure for Dr Margaret Moreton (Principal of Leva Consulting) to be invited to speak at the Emergency Media and Public Affairs conference in June 2017, in Sydney.  The title of Margaret’s presentation was “Are the media a force for community recovery, or an impediment?”  

Margaret presentation was designed to give voice to ordinary community members who have been interviewed by her, after their experience of fire, flood or cyclone.   Her presentation was based on having listened to their stories of how the media engaged with them, and with their community, at a time when they had been devastated by the loss of their homes, families and neighbours, pets and livestock, property and even their sense of safety.

Community members tell stories that are both positive and negative.  There were occasions when the media assisted local communities in their recovery e.g. by publicising the community’s needs, by sharing the plight of local families or business, or by sharing information about how other communities and individuals could best help.  However, there are also stories of how the media can deepen the sense of trauma e.g. by screening images of devastated homes, often before the residents are even aware that their home is lost, by accessing the community too soon, and by asking distressed locals to describe their loss and their emotional state.  

Dr Moreton called on the media to fulfil their role and use their community access, more compassionately and intentionally; to support community recovery and resilience.  She posed the question of whether the media might be interested to develop and agree a code of ethics.   A code that to be adhered to during such times of such community destruction, to honour the locals, and to respect their loss and grief.