'Catastrophic Failure' Theories and Disaster Journalism: Evaluating Media Explanations of the Black Saturday Bushfires

Burns, Alex and Eltham, Ben (2010) 'Catastrophic Failure' Theories and Disaster Journalism: Evaluating Media Explanations of the Black Saturday Bushfires. Media International Australia, incorporating Culture and Policy (137). pp. 90-99. ISSN 1329-878X

Abstract

In recent decades, academic researchers of natural disasters and emergency management have developed a canonical literature on 'catastrophe failure' theories such as disaster responses from from US emergency management services (Drabek, 2010; Quarantelli, 1998) and the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant (Perrow, 1999). This article examines six influential theories from this field in an attempt to explore why Victoria's disaster and emergency management response systems failed during Australia's Black Saturday bushfires. How well, if at all, are these theories understood by journalists, disaster and emergency management planners, and policy-makers? On examining the Country Fire Authority's response to the fires, as well as the media's reportage of them, we use the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires as a theory-testing case study of failures in emergency management, preparation and planning. We conclude that journalists can learn important lessons from academics' specialist knowledge about disaster and emergency management responses.

Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/15932
Subjects Current > FOR Classification > 1903 Journalism and Professional Writing
Current > FOR Classification > 2001 Communication and Media Studies
Current > FOR Classification > 1606 Political Science
Keywords Black Saturday Bushfires, journalism, disaster management, emergency management
Citations in Scopus 7 - View on Scopus
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