Disasters and risks dominate the news when they occur or when they are imminent. However, the role of the media is not limited – nor should it be limited – to reporting when disasters are in progress. Media coverage is a powerful tool that can focus attention, set the agenda for public debate, influence political decisions, change public attitudes... and save lives.
The media shapes the public's perception of the risks posed by natural hazards. These perceptions in turn influence the set of strategies for mitigating future vulnerabilities in the form of taxes, opportunity costs, changes in lifestyle, among others.
The media is also a vital information channel between authorities and emergency services, on the one hand, and their audiences, on the other. They transmit information in both directions. Before a disaster, especially in the case of a natural hazard for which an alert is available, journalists transmit the alerts and other emergency information from the authorities to the population, thus reducing the risk. Journalists can sometimes reach disaster-affected areas even before emergency services. In these cases, their role in transmitting information about the situation on the ground becomes even more important.