Why do we need continuous updates about possible attacks? | Belicons

Why do we need continuous updates about possible attacks?

Posted on: 
Monday 28 March 2016

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Why do we need continuous updates about possible attacks?

On March 25, 2016 I read on the opinion section of the newspaper Volkskrant that Marcel Rözer was angry at the media because they were continuously talking about the terrorist attacks in Brussels on the day that the attacks had taken place.

According to him, it is important to only report about a terrorist attack when there is really something new to say. And that if they cannot do that, the channels should go off the air. Better have no program than a program full of nonsense. He only wants an update of all the other news every hour.

I was surprised about this column because it is a reaction that goes from one extreme to the other. I think that an attitude like this will only reinforce the turmoil so this is not a solution. Still, I can understand his feelings about this. For that reason, it is interesting to take a look at his arguments. Rözer's arguments are:

  • It is nonsense and an amateurish way of acting for journalists, for it is much reporting without knowing what is going on. According to him, the news should be brought without emotions and after all the facts are clear. In that way, a news reporter can comment on the news better.

  • In this way news is just entertainment, for the journalists just keep on giving updates, even when there is no new information.

  • In this way the terrorists get what they want: attention.

Marcel Rözers' solution is to just not report about attacks, just every hour a news update about real news. The advantage of this idea, according to Rözer, is that people are then forced to give meaning to what is happening. They have to start thinking on their own and will come to the conclusion that the only ones to blame are the perpetrators.

Peiling: Media mogen een aanslag pas zo noemen wanneer duidelijk is dat het ook echt een aanslag is

Peiling: Media mogen een aanslag pas zo noemen wanneer duidelijk is dat het ook echt een aanslag is

Lees de blog bij deze peiling https://www.belicons.nl/nl/blog/media-zwijgen

Poll: The media should call an attack as such only when it is clear that is was one

Poll: The media should call an attack as such only when it is clear that is was one

Read the blog that goes with this poll https://www.belicons.nl/en/blog/media-silence

Body 2: 

Rözer's arguments come down to the idea that he would rather see that journalist take more time in their reports about terrorist attacks and only report something when there is really something new to say. And when there isn’t anything new to say, they don’t have to speculate.

In these arguments I hear some kind of idealism. At one point he says that we should use that moment of silence when the media go off the air to reflect on the events alone. So I think this isn’t just about terrorist attacks, but he wants us to reflect on events instead of being dependent on the information flow in the media. He does have a point there.

Living in the Information era

People have never received this much information

We do receive a lot of information each day. Today we get more information a day than people did a few centuries ago during their whole lives. Therefore, we call this era the Information era. The reason for this is that because of the Internet information goes very quickly around the world. And since there are multiple ways to watch, read or listen to this news we receive this information very quickly too.

We cannot just change what we are

And we cannot easily change the way we are living. So it is logical that we want to know about it very quickly when there is a terrorist attack. And these feelings are in case of Brussels even stronger since it is very close to The Netherlands. We are shocked and want to know immediately what has happened and what that means for us.

A listener of NPO Radio 1 wrote to the radio station that he heard that Tuesday that something was up. He turned on the radio and only heard music. According to him this was very odd. Later on the people of the radio told that they were playing music so that they had some extra time to find out what really happened.

Our hunger for information

How does speculation help us?

So people expect the media to talk about these kinds of events and the more shocking the event, the more they expect to constantly hear about it. But since in this case it wasn’t clear immediately who attacked Brussels, the journalists started to speculate. Because of this we can wonder whether we carry our hunger for information too far.

For the aim of journalism is to make known to us what happens in the world. And when they keep on speculating, we don’t hear anything new anymore and it gets harder to understand what we do know for sure about what happened.

And to bring the news clearly, also about attacks, is an important task of news stations. Firstly because only then we really know what happened, and secondly, because in this way we might become misinformed and that may cause unnecessary turmoil in society.

What if they are wrong about what they were speculating about?

During the reports about the attacks in Brussels speculation about Muslim terrorists started very quickly. But what if it had turned out later on that they weren’t Muslims? How quickly will all people hear about the mistake? And how will it nevertheless affect the way many people will look at Muslims?

The question then is, despite our hunger for information, how journalists can share with us what is really happening during shocking events like a terrorist attack clearly and orderly.

Sharing shocking information in a clear way in the Information era

Make use of the Internet and Teletext

I think that the solution are the websites of the most important news channels and Teletext. On these platforms they can share all information about the current event, like an attack, and give updates. And then the regular programming on radio and TV can just go on.

But if this would be reality then the media has to communicate this with us clearly so that we know where to find the information. For suppose there is another attack and we are shocked. Then we want to find information about what is happening as fast as possible. And if we cannot find it on the places we expect it to be, then there may be a lot of confusion.

So 'being clear' also means that everyone knows where to find the information. In that case the before mentioned caller wouldn’t turn on the radio, but look at the Internet or on Teletext instead.

Do mention the event regularly in order not to cause a turmoil

Moreover, the media should also, different from what Rözer claims, do have to share what they know about the attacks during the hourly news reports. And at the moment the journalists learn something new, they need to share it with the public. I imagine this like reporting about a ghost driver. They mention that immediately too. And then they continue with the regular programming until there is something new to say.

For if media keep silent about these attacks, then we will find a lot of speculation on social media. And that won’t help either. So if they want to control the flow of information, then they need to share information regularly.

What do you think? Do you agree with Rözer? Or do you have a very different opinion? Share your opinion below or on the forum!

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