Reporters face balancing act when covering disasters like Harvey

Live interview has many asking if media is oversaturating coverage of Harvey

Major flooding in Texas has many residents downright frustrated, and that frustration played out on live television Tuesday afternoon while a woman was being interviewed by a reporter.

The video has some asking if the media is oversaturating the coverage of Harvey’s destruction.

In the live interview with CNN inside a Houston shelter, the woman said, “Y'all sitting here and trying to interview people at their worst times. It’s not the smartest thing to do. People are really breaking down and you all are sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the **** is wrong with us. You really trying to understand with the microphone in my face. I’m shivering cold and my kids wet and you still putting the microphone in my face.”

The video is an example of the balancing act reporters face when covering a major catastrophe, such as Hurricane Harvey. It’s never easy and sometimes it leads to public frustration being aired on live television.

News4Jax asked media ethics expert Indira Lakshmanan, of The Poyner Insitute, to weigh in on the video clip

“She clearly had informed the woman and asked her beforehand to do the interview. It’s not as if she ambushed this woman and suddenly put a microphone and camera in front of her face without warning her," Lakshmanan said. “There is a balance. You have to cover other news as well. It shouldn’t just be this wall-to-wall coverage.”

She said wall-to-wall coverage can also lead to other problems depending on what’s being covered.

“I think there are other things like terrorist attacks where do I think we have to be much more careful about having an endless loop of the same coverage over and over again because yes you can traumatize people and yes encourage repeat attacks," Lakshmanan said. 

She said that’s different than providing more coverage to natural disasters, like Harvey, because that kind of coverage actually helps people, especially first responders.

“Much of the best information that authorities are getting about where to rescue people is happening right now from journalist who are on the ground; who are out there in boats and helicopters who are alerting authorities in real time where people need to be rescued," Lakshmanan said. 

Though there was foul language in the live interview, it never escalated to a physical confrontation. 

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