Understanding the Ebola information crisis
This is a sneak peek at research to be presented June 3-4, 2017 at “Is no local news bad news? Local journalism and its future,” a conference hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre. Click here to learn more and register.
By SIERRA BEIN
When the Ebola crisis hit in 2014, getting health information out to people in rural communities in West Africa was crucial to their survival.
But the infectious disease outbreak affected communities that didn’t have access to the news coverage that would keep them up-to-date about the virus – a crisis of information with a death count of over 11,000 people, says a science journalism expert based in Montreal.
“It was a huge outbreak, that basically ended up killing five times as many as any of the outbreaks did before,” said David Secko, chair of the journalism department at Concordia University.
In collaboration with the World Federation of Science Journalists, Secko has been examining the role of local news during the Ebola outbreak to show what role local journalism plays in communities in emergency situations, with the hope of helping to avoid fatal information crises in the future.
Most of the West African journalists who were reporting on Ebola in rural regions faced the challenge of little experience reporting on health issues, as well as a lack of scientific information.
Research on crisis and health reporting is still very underdeveloped, says Secko, who studied microbiology before going into journalism.
“I really do think [this research] connects in a different way, and shows an example of how a health topic like this and some of the discussions going around crisis reporting and the needs of communities during these issues might connect to the broader issues that are being discussed around local journalism,” he said.
Secko will present his research findings at Is no local news bad news? The future of local journalism on June 4, a local news conference hosted by the Ryerson School of Journalism.