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Misinformation and Instant Access: Inconsistent Reporting during Extreme Climatic Events, Reflecting on Tropical Cyclone Idai

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  • 1 aSchool of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
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Abstract

In an era of globalization, the spread of misinformation is becoming increasingly problematic. The dissemination of inaccurate and conflicting news on events such as tropical cyclones can result in people being placed at increased risk and can negatively influence the amount of aid received by the affected region. This study scrutinizes media articles and, with the use of comparative analysis, uncovers the potential cause of misinformation in disaster journalism. The results of the study found that 59% (n = 80) of the articles reported on wind speed values and 80% (n = 80) of the articles reported on the number of fatalities. Results indicate that 44% (n = 80) of the articles used official sources, uncovering that a potential source of misinformation is not only what is provided to journalists from official sources but also how the various sources can lead to contradicting news articles. The variations in news reports can be attributed to factors such as the influx of different reports and the changing conditions during a disaster, all of which make consistent reporting on a disaster a challenging process.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Jennifer M. Fitchett, jennifer.fitchett@wits.ac.za

Abstract

In an era of globalization, the spread of misinformation is becoming increasingly problematic. The dissemination of inaccurate and conflicting news on events such as tropical cyclones can result in people being placed at increased risk and can negatively influence the amount of aid received by the affected region. This study scrutinizes media articles and, with the use of comparative analysis, uncovers the potential cause of misinformation in disaster journalism. The results of the study found that 59% (n = 80) of the articles reported on wind speed values and 80% (n = 80) of the articles reported on the number of fatalities. Results indicate that 44% (n = 80) of the articles used official sources, uncovering that a potential source of misinformation is not only what is provided to journalists from official sources but also how the various sources can lead to contradicting news articles. The variations in news reports can be attributed to factors such as the influx of different reports and the changing conditions during a disaster, all of which make consistent reporting on a disaster a challenging process.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Jennifer M. Fitchett, jennifer.fitchett@wits.ac.za
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