Make a Difference!—Media First Response Is Crisis Media Consultation for Community Leaders and Journalists

On designing the APA Division 46 SMP&T Media First Response (MFR) training.

Mary Gregerson, PhD,

Christopher Ferguson, PhD,

June Wilson, PhD, RN,

Rodney Lowman, PhD,

Psychology previously partnered with journalism by offering journalists self-care training (Gregerson, 2003, 2005; Murray Law, 2007) for more effective crisis mass communication. Instant Internet access catapulted journalists, often first on scenes, into first responder roles (deAngelis, 2014). Today, media psychologists can further help achieve better crisis communication through socially just preparedness training for Internet age journalists and community officials handling public relations during disasters.

Media First Response (MFR) assists journalism with: (a) trauma by television, (b) an ethnic/racial attribution bias uncovered in crime reporting, and (c) the global spotlight on small town localities.  For true “grass roots” efforts, at the outset of designing curriculum we invite media psychologists’ input into this training—please send us your thoughts, comments, and questions about MFR.

Countering Trauma-by-Television

During catastrophes, people turn to television for information, risking “trauma-by-television” (see Balter, 2001; Gregerson, 2003, 2005).  Retrospective research after disasters (Comer et al., 2014, Holman et al, 2013) cannot conclude that media exposure caused psychological problems; it is possible that PTSD and other psychological distress may bias the retrospective reporting of results.  For example, Crombag and colleagues (1996) documented a false memory effect among people living near a disaster area who reported viewing televised stories of the disaster destruction when no such report ever existed!

In any event, local community impressionability surrounding crises requires a special type of reporting.  To contour reporting that buffers and counters the stress of disaster, a Media First Response needs to substantially differ from reporting in calmer times since analysis, commentary, and background needs careful contouring to avoid newly discovered attributional biases.

Redressing Social Injustice

An ethnicity/racial attributional bias has been uncovered during television crisis coverage.  Following unfortunate ethnic/racial stereotypes, reportage on violent crimes committed by Caucasians contains speculation about environmental influences like the adverse influence from playing violent videogames; yet when the perpetrator is of color dispositional attributes are assumed (Oliver & Fonash, 2001).  To counter this unwitting social injustice, journalists need to shoulder a professional social responsibility (Gunn & Lester, 2012).

Raising professional consciousness about this unwitting social inequity starts redressing this wrong. Psychologists, knowing the world is watching, can guide television reports toward a more socially just new journalism, and, make no mistake, the world is watching. Since the Internet what is local no longer stays local but erupts globally, spewing worldwide images, values, and messages about American life and people (Rudel, 2011).


The Internet blasts raw footage, now the media first response, from any bystander’s mobile. Yet, professional journalism sets the standard. A heightened sense of journalistic social responsibility for global impact prompted new media guidelines (Gunn & Lester, 2011), an attempt at “writing a wrong,” as Holt (2011) puts it. Psychologists, also duty-bound during disasters (deAngelis, 2014), may continue assisting this new journalism’s re-definition and transformative role on the world stage.

Hometown Networking and Consultation

Journalists often after crises interpret and develop coverage for local communities which pops into world news. This worldwide broadcasting telescope magnifies ill-equipped localities unprepared for the global interest, intensity, commentary, and judgment.

We need grass roots Media First Response training to reach the smallest towns to prepare for the largest stage. MFR training focuses on participants learning social just Internet skills.  Then MFR psychologist teaching their hometown journalists and officials those skills.

Systematic MFR networking and consultation training helps psychologists identify key hometown stakeholders (e.g., journalists and community officials) that MFR skills need to reach. Then, after returning home from training, MFR psychologists contact these stakeholders to develop a relationship of trust imperative for effective consultation during crises (O’Neal, 2002).

Consultation for Crises

Consultation skills and ethics of consultation are key components of MFR training. MFR stresses the significance of disseminating relevant information in the right way. Raising consciousness about social injustice challenges MFR psychologists to partner with journalists and community disaster officials.  As partners they develop information dissemination policies with shared aims of their mass messages promoting community good and global good.

MFR preparedness aims for socially just, stress buffering crisis communication that diffuses rather than escalates potentially incendiary situations for at-risk communities.


Balter, R. (2001). Personal communication., New York, NY.

Crombag, H., Wagenaar, W., & Van Koppen, P. (1996). Crashing memories and the problem of ’source monitoring.’ Applied Cognitive Psychology, 8, 95–105.

deAngelis, T. (2014; Jul-Aug). What every psychologist should know about disasters Monitor on Psychology, 45(7), 62-65.

Gregerson (Jasnoski), M. B. (2003). Media and psychology could partner to counter terrorism. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 12, 279-306.

Gregerson, M; (2005, Fall). Within the wake of catastrophe… The Amplifier, 2, 10-11

Gunn III, J. F.; Lester, D. (2014). Media guidelines in the Internet age. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 33, 187-189.

Holt, L. F. (2011). Writing the wrong. Can counter stereotypes offset negative media messages about African-Americans?  Dissertation Abstracts International Section A Human and Social Science, 71(7-A), 2011, 2274.

Holman, E. A., Garfin, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2014). Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings.  PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(1), 93-98.

Murray Law, Bridget. (2007). Dispatched to trauma: SLC speakers advised connecting with journalists and firefighters before disasters hit  Monitor on Psychology, 38(5), 44-45.

Oliver, M. B. & Fonash, D. (2002). Race and crime in the news: Whites’ identification and misidentification of violent and nonviolent criminal suspects. Media Psychology, 4, 1370156.

O’Neal, D. (2002). Assessing community informatics: A review of methodological approaches for evaluating community networks and community technology centers. Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy, 12(1), 76-102.

Rudel, T. K. (2011). Local actions, global effects? Understanding the circumstances in which locally beneficial environmental actions cumulate to have global effects. Ecology and Society, 16, 19

One thought on “Make a Difference!—Media First Response Is Crisis Media Consultation for Community Leaders and Journalists

  1. Pingback: Update on Media First Response Activities at the 2016 APA Convention | THE AMPLIFIER MAGAZINE

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