Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


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A THESIS Presented to the faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Under the Supervision of Professor Larry J. Walklin, Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2011

Copyright 2011 Chad D. Morehead


During disasters, residents from impacted areas need information to help them respond to and cope with the destruction. The local media play an important role in providing this disaster related information to their community. This is especially true during major disasters which knock out electrical power and information distribution channels and make it difficult for residents to receive mediated information. While the public’s informational needs vary from disaster to disaster, some disasters such as hurricanes provide the media opportunities to provide information that can help the public prepare for the disaster, respond to the disaster, and recover from the disaster. Hurricane Ivan, which made its first U.S. landfall on September 16, 2004, provided such opportunities to the Pensacola media organizations. For a case study of this event, the Escambia County Public Information Officer and 17 Pensacola media professionals representing 13 local media organizations that participated in Hurricane Ivan coverage were interviewed about their experiences during the disaster. These interviews included personnel from print, television, and radio organizations. While not every Pensacola media organization got involved in this hurricane coverage, these interviews show that those that did were committed to providing an important public service to Pensacola’s residents by giving them the information they needed during each of the three stages of preparation, response, and recovery. None of these organizations were able to single-handedly meet all of the public’s informational needs, but they each contributed in important ways. It was the combined efforts of the local media—sometimes through formal arrangements with each other—that provided the necessary information to Pensacola residents throughout the disaster.