Journalism Beyond the Command Post: Local Journalists as Strategic Citizen Stakeholders in Natural Disaster Recovery

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Journalism, Disaster, Local Journalism, Crisis Communication, Narrative, Rural Journalism

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On Memorial Day weekend 2015, the Blanco River crested at 42 feet,drowning the town of Wimberley, Texas (USA), resulting in thedeath of 11 people and damaging more than 300 homes andbusinesses. Journalistsflocked to Wimberley to report thedestruction, but as the hype from national news organizationsdied down, only a few local journalists remained to tell the storyof the town’s struggle for recovery. Using case study methodsand narrative theory, this study examined local news stories,interviews, and observations of local journalists, andconversations with community members to evaluate how localjournalists consider their role as one that contributes to long-term recovery and resilience. Conversations with local journalistsrevealed a reporting pressure created by geographic proximity tochange the focus of stories. An evaluation of the narrativesexpressed by journalists and how those transfer into newsworkprovided a deeper understanding of the tensions created when ajournalist is also a citizen stakeholder. These implicationscontribute to the development of thejournalist as citizen(JAC)model, and addresses the way local journalists are strategic in thenarratives they adopt in thefirst six months after a natural disaster.

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Journalism Studies, v. 22, issue 10, p. 1279-1297