Earthquake Journalism Guide for Social Media Users and Journalists

The latest Kahramanmaraş earthquake as the Disaster of the Century showed us how social media platforms can be useful when it is used in a responsible and effective manner. Of course, we have come across those with bad intentions as much as those with good intentions during this period. Media institutions started to report on the earthquake by channeling their human resources to the earthquake region from the first day. We, as Üsküdar University Faculty of Communication faculty members, have prepared this guide to encourage a more accurate use of social media and traditional media based on the experiences experienced.

1.    Let’s be aware of the power of social media. Let’s not forget that many lives were saved with calls for help via social media.

2.    We should not share posts that is not based on scientific value such as ‘The Americans caused the earthquake’ or ‘the oracle who knew about the earthquake’, and we should not spread these posts.

3.    Images of another earthquake that has already occurred must not be shared on social media as if they are new.

4.    Photos and videos shared on social media should not be tampered with in a way that distorts reality, such as additions, subtractions, collages or montages.

5.    It must pay attention not to use hate speech, provocative, marginalizing and discriminatory expressions in social media posts and news.

6.    Hashtags used to facilitate help in earthquakes should not be used in irrelevant posts in order to gain followers. These posts hinder the aid.

7.    It must be paid attention to ensure that the content shared in social media is accurate and up-to-date in order to direct the help teams. The eventuated posts must be deleted and prevented from re-circulating.

8.    It must be exercised with caution against those who make calls for help on social media by phishing and by imitating real charities, and social media platforms must be contacted to block these accounts as soon as they are detected.

9.    On social media, it is necessary not to share sensational posts for purposes such as collecting followers and getting likes in a way that can be considered reasonable in normal periods.

10.   On social media, bashing attempts against journalists who report on the ground are frequent. Such attempts must not be supported.

11.    Let's not forget that sharing photos and videos of injured or children rescued from the debris on social media platforms and turning these children into symbols can lead that they might not be able to overcome the trauma they have experienced for a lifetime.

12.    Let's be aware that fake news spreads faster and avoid sharing unconfirmed news.

13.    A mindful language should be used when talking to people who are waiting for their relatives to be rescued from the debris, and it should be avoided to ask even more demoralizing questions such as what are you feeling, whether there is pain.

14.   When interviewing earthquake victims and reporting the news, one should be sensitive; moreover, human feelings and values should not be ignored.

15.    Let's first share our identity information With the people you want to interview, to whom you extend a microphone and inform them about the purpose of being there and meeting with them.

16.    Let’s give our condolences and express sorrows to the people whose relatives have passed away, however, let's not use expressions such as ‘I understand your pain, these things will pass, everything will be all right’.

17.    Let's be very careful when handing microphones to people whose relatives are still under the debris, and if possible, let's not do these interviews during the live broadcast. People who are suffering may unintentionally use expressions that cause them trouble.

18.    It is necessary to avoid showing images of those who lost their lives in the earthquake, and especially images showing their faces because these images can lead to permanent trauma in the relatives of the deceased in the first place.

19.    It is necessary to consider that publications on traumatic events such as earthquakes will have an impact on viewers and readers. We must not forget that traumatic images lead to compassion fatigue in people.

20.    Reducing earthquake news to numbers, giving the number of dead and injured almost every hour leads to insensitivity in people after a while. It is necessary to consider that those who die are human beings and not mere statistics.  

21.    When reporting on the earthquake, it is not right to dramatize the photographs by adding music to the images and to make a story out of the photographs. News should be information-based, not emotion-based.

22.    Let’s not try to make unnecessary contact with people who are under the debris, risking their health for the sake of reporting. Also, let's not force people waiting to be rescued to speak so as not to cause oxygen loss.

23.   Statements other than official statements and reliable sources should not be respected.

24.   Images shared on social media must not be used in the news without confirming.

25.   We must strive to objectively convey what is happening. The worst journalism is journalism that distorts reality. This type of journalism damages both the public's right to information and the reputation of the profession.

26.   We must pay attention to the fact that the news sources to be consulted are experts in the subject.

27.   Journalists and social media users need to avoid behaviors that endanger themselves and others when broadcasting.

28.    It has been seen many times again that when the media reports correctly, setbacks are quickly corrected. We should not abstain from reporting needs and malpractices in an appropriate manner. 

29.    It is necessary to concentrate not only on problems, but also on solutions. It is possible to help teams further in the field by communicating possible solution proposals.

30.    In the process of reporting, debris removal and life-saving efforts under the debris should not be interfered with. It must be paid attention not to disrupt the work in order to broadcast life-saving images on live broadcast.


 Earthquake Journalism Guide (In Turkish)


Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)