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Local Media Helps Communities Cope After Disasters

Local media’s sensitive approach to communities trying to cope in the face of trauma helps local people adapt to the stressful events by strengthening community bonds.

This is one of the findings from Lancaster University last week at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Liverpool.

The study examined how West Cumbrian communities coped with two local traumatic events in a short space of time (the November 2009 floods and June 2010 Cumbria shootings). A total of 77 adults who were living and still live in the area at the time of the events completed a questionnaire about how much they had been affected. Ten also took part in interviews.

Analysis found that that communities coped by sticking together and sharing experiences. The role of the media impacted on how the community responded, with local media reportedly being sensitive and helping to facilitate community resilience and the national media largely being invasive.

However, there were significant differences in how they reacted to the different tragedies.

“The results for the two events were very different with the floods (a natural event) providing evidence of communities pulling together in some cases and being pulled apart in others,” said Suzanne Day, lead researcher. “This was mainly a result of relative deprivation with communities who perceived they received little support feeling alienated from the rest of the area. The communities that did receive external support banded together with a shared sense of collective identity.”

Day’s research showed that the strong sense of community was reinforced with the presence of national media, which at times the locals found intrusive. This was in contrast to the sensitive presence of local media which helped bond and strengthen the community.

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