web analytics

Wee gripes: Crying wolf

Written By: - Date published: 10:24 am, October 2nd, 2009 - 10 comments
Categories: Media - Tags: ,

I want to make clear this post isn’t about the relief effort in Samoa and Tonga. I think that has been well handled.

It was good to see Winnie Laban and Chris Carter, both MPs with links to Samoa, were sent out there immediately to work with our diplomats in assessing the situation and are now getting the information back to the ministers. Cross-party cooperation is appropriate in this situation.

It’s good that Key’s going to get out there in a few days once he gets back from Florida. I don’t think he will treat it as just another photo op.

But this is wee gripes and my wee gripe is about how the media handled the tsunami alert. It was irresponsible of them to over-hype it the way they did. If you listen to the various interviews on Morning Report all the official advice right from the start was ‘This is not a threat to New Zealand. Just don’t go down to the beach to watch.’ The only official who stuffed up was the guy on Breakfast, but the effect of what he said was the same ‘there’s no tsunami threat to NZ’

Yet the online media in particular, which is where a lot of people not turn to for up to the minute info in an emergency, hyped and hyped the thing. Breathless reports of where and when it would strike New Zealand. Failing to mention it would be small, if noticeable, and on a low tide. It was almost as if the media set out to create panic.

Almost worse than hyping the thing, the media actually got taken in by the hype. Apparently, newsrooms in Auckland were emptied out with everyone sent to the beaches to cover the waves.

How will the public react next time we see ‘Tsunami heading our way’ in screaming bold on nzherald.co.nz? Will we remember how the media cried wolf this time and ignore them?

Next time, it might be the real thing. Thanks to the media’s irresponsibility, people might not heed the warnings.

10 comments on “Wee gripes: Crying wolf ”

  1. rocky 1

    Good post – but:

    Almost worse than hyping the thing, the media actually got taken in by the hype. Apparently, newsrooms in Auckland were emptied out with everyone sent to the beaches to cover the waves.

    If the alert was real and serious, do you think everyone would still be sent to the beaches to cover the waves?

  2. JohnDee 2

    I have to say that i find all the blame being attributed to Civil Defense also to be more than a bit offensive. I found the information supplied from National Radio (listening to Kathryn Ryan) to be more than adequate.
    The information was clear and precise and was updated regularly. If as you say above, some of the news agencies over-hyped the situation you are probably correct.
    It seems that these days people need other people to think for them, make decisions for them and if necessary, whip their arses as well.
    I am starting to despair that people these days have no common sense, or not enough to actually figure out that “If” a tidal wave was going to arrive it was not going to be very large.

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      On the contrary, there’s really no way for NZ to determine how large a tsunami is going to be until it gets here. So far all the tsunamis that have arrived at NZ that I am aware of have been less than a metre in height, but it’s not inconceivable that a larger one could end up here from a distant event such as the Samoa quake. The magnitude of an earthquake does not directly correspond with the size of a tsunami wave, and the size of the wave can be different in different directions. It all depends on how much the crust under the ocean moves, and in what way: upwards, downwards, sideways, which direction and by how much.

      However in this particular case, the Hawaii report did indicate that the wave would probably be a metre or less, which does generally not pose any danger except to beaches, beach-front properties and sheltered harbour, so I think the advice of people on the east coast to seek higher ground was rather hyped.

      Finally, there were some reports that in a couple of sheltered harbours in the North Island the tsunami did cause some potential harm. The word ‘tsunami’ itself actually means “harbour waves”, as in the waves that are amplified by the geography of a harbour to cause damage, as opposed to those waves that hit an exposed beach.

  3. Scott 3

    To be fair to the news media, in the earlier stages of the scare it was difficult to get much info out of Civil Defence and the picture was initially confusing. It was only later in the morning that it became clear the threat to NZ was non-existent.

  4. snoozer 4

    Less than an hour after the tsunami struck Samoa, before 9am, there was a scientist on radio NZ saying that it had been 1-1.5m there (which he described as small, of course, for low-lying areas it still went quite a way in shore). He made clear it wasn’t a danger to nz.

    The internet sites were still in full panic the public mode until half past ten.

  5. randal 5

    I find that the politicisation of national disasters leaves me cold. these people should not be there in an official capacity nor make political capital out of their presence. Names of the deceased should be read out by a senior news reader not a senior whip from some party. all these king canutes…bahh humbug.

  6. BLiP 6

    C’mon – its good and very cheap copy. Far more economnic to fill the first half of the news with “live” reports from empty buildings and beaches that “just hours ago” were buzzing with urgency than actually investigate anything. And, gee – look at the newspapers – huge pictures splashed everywhere rather than actual copy. Its a media feast.

  7. randal 7

    of course. talking about it is much easier than doing something. the meedja will be tired of it by next monday.

  8. Maynard J 8

    I am in two minds. Underreport and something bad happens and “Wah – why weren’t we told”. Overhype and nothing happens and you get what we have here (..is failure…to communicate…).

    A mitigant is to get better channels for transmission of accurate information. As soon as it was clear that there was no threat, everyone should have been told.

    The problem is that basically until it happens, there is no way to be sure. Tsunami do not propagate equally and in equal directions. A 9.0 earthquake could make a 30cm tsinami, and a 6.5 could generate 5m tsunami.

    The Boxing Day tsunami was generated by an earthquake that caused an upthrust in the sea floor. I forget the exact dimensions, but I believe that the sea floor was lifted by over 10 meters, very rapidly, along 30km of fault. That is basically a giant wave machine. Without that upthrust, the tsunami would have been minimal.

    So better to be safe than sorry, but avoid scaring the horses. A massive dilemma that CD faces and is not really acknowledged frequently.

  9. Steve 9

    Some of those who went down to the beach were those who have lost faith in the Civil Defense. Time and time again they have been unreliable and any information released is confusing. The infrastructure is there but it is run by retired Scoutmasters on an ego trip.
    Now if I was in Samoa and wanted to send information to NZ the logical place would be the Media. CD only have an answerphone telling you to ring your local Council. The Council advises you to ring CD!!!!!!!
    As usual NZ is the laughing stock of the world

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Tokelau Language Week reminds us to stay united and strong
    Staying strong in the face of challenges and being true to our heritage and languages are key to preserving our cultural identity and wellbeing, is the focus of the 2020 Tokelau Language Week. Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says this year’s theme, ‘Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community benefits from Māori apprenticeships
    Up to 50 Māori apprentices in Wellington will receive paid training to build houses for their local communities, thanks to a $2.75 million investment from the Māori Trades and Training Fund, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Ngāti Toa Rangatira Incorporated to provide its Ngā Kaimahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Training fund supports Māori jobseekers
    Rapidly growing sectors will benefit from a $990,000 Māori Trades and Training Fund investment which will see Wellington jobseekers supported into work, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Sapphire Consultants Ltd. to help up to 45 Māori jobseekers into paid training initiatives over two years through ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ruakura Inland Port development vital infrastructure for Waikato
    The Government is investing $40 million to develop an inland port at Ruakura which will become a freight super-hub and a future business, research and residential development for the Waikato, Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford, and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today. The funding has been has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Appointments made to Defence Expert Review Group
    Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today the establishment of an Expert Review Group to review a number of aspects of the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) structure, information management and record-keeping processes.  The Expert Review Group’s work arises out of the first recommendation from the Report of the Government’s Inquiry ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • No active community cases of COVID-19
    There are no active community cases of COVID-19 remaining in the country after the last people from the recent outbreak have recovered from the virus, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “This is a big milestone. New Zealanders have once again through their collective actions squashed the virus. The systems ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Clean energy upgrade for more public buildings
    More public buildings will be supported by the Government to upgrade to run on clean energy, the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw announced today. Minister Shaw announced that Lincoln and Auckland universities will receive support through the Clean-Powered Public Service Fund to replace fossil fuel boilers. Southern, Taranaki, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Schools back donations scheme for the second year
    More schools have opted in to the donations scheme for 2021, compared to 2020 when the scheme was introduced. “The families of more than 447,000 students will be better off next year, with 94% of eligible schools and kura opting into the scheme,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “This is ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago