Where there’s a dramatic weather event, you’ll find a battered reporter desperate to demonstrate just how dramatic it is.
And so it was yesterday, as Cyclone Debbie tore into Bowen, Queensland, and its surrounds.
News crews descended on towns to report on the story, and as journalists were warning viewers to stay inside, they were battling the cyclonic elements themselves.
Whitsundays Shire councillor Mike Brunker told Crikey he’d seen a reporter who had filed while standing next to an open drain, and another who’d been out there in Bowen looking like a “drowned rat” all day was doing more harm than good.
“A lot of people up here just turned it off. It’s so hypocritical,” Brunker said. “Have they got a force field around them or a bullet-proof vest? They’re telling people to go back inside while they’re standing out there in it. Until someone gets killed, they’ll keep doing it.”
Brunker said one member of the media was taking shelter at his house when the cyclone was at its worst, when they were asked to go back out into the storm to get more footage.
“You don’t go and stand in a bushfire and report on it from inside the fire. You don’t have to put people that much in the picture,” he said.
Brittney Kleyn was crossing into Today with Lisa Wilkinson when she called short her live cross to take shelter from the vicious winds.
“We’re remaining safe but really the conditions aren’t suitable for people to be on the roads or walking down … it’s really not safe to be outside,” Kleyn said, as she was struggling to stand up against the winds.
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Seven’s reporters in Bowen repeatedly mentioned they were reporting from or near a building certified to withstand a category five cyclone (which, of course, doesn’t matter much if you’re not actually in it). Among them was Paul Burt, who really put himself on the line for the story, getting drenched all day during live crosses into Seven, and then again for a report for the 6pm bulletin.
Kochie was particularly outraged at people (other than Seven’s crew) who were out yesterday morning.
As Lauren Marer in Mackay told Sunrise’s Kochie about felled trees in the town, she was also warning viewers to stay indoors:
“It is dangerous … we are advising people to take emergency services’ advice and not to go out to take pictures,” she told viewers, as Kochie could not believe that people were walking around during the cross.
And then this morning there was Kochie again, doing exactly what authorities are asking people not to do: driving around to check out the damage before it’s cleared.
And not to be outdone, Nine’s Today did the same thing with a reporter in Bowen:
Brunker said that while he was grateful for the coverage and the attention on the destructive cyclone, he hoped in future the media would take a bit more care.