Special Interest Group 2017 Update: The Media First Responder Corps Helps Hometown Officials Manage Community Challenges

Mary Gregerson, PhD
Heartlandia Psychology, Leavenworth, KS

In 2014 the Media First Responder (MFR) Corps launched. A baker’s dozen psychologists from around the world “trained the trainers” before the 2015 APA Convention in Toronto, Canada. Each provided her or his area of expertise to increase the crisis management skills of all. In 2016, Leavenworth, KS Mayor and MFR advocate Lisa Weakley recounted her MFR experiences at the Denver, CO APA Convention. Another Convention program featured a handful of Original MFRers. This year a number of APA Convention programs recounts how these Original MFRers continued to empower their hometown community officials to apply MFR to maintain peace amid potentially volatile community situations. This Update’s brief history contextualizes the following adapted abstracts of the 2017 Convention programs on situations when APA MFRer psychologists acted as ambassadors of peace, fostering effective community leadership and efficient mass media communication. If you, too, wish to become a Hometown Ambassador for Psychology, please contact MFR Founder Dr. Mary Gregerson (mary.gregerson@aol.com) or speak with her at the 2017 Washington, DC APA Convention at any of these programs or the Division 10, 17, 34, or 46 Social Hours.

1. Media First Responder Corps: When Local News Makes Global Headlines, or, Even Better—Does NOT!

Todd Thompson, JD, Leavenworth, KS County District Attorney
Mary Gregerson, Ph.D, Independent Practice, Leavenworth, KS

In this age of Internet global connectivity, grass roots MFR preparedness reaches the smallest towns to prepare for the largest news media stage. In this United Nations-based program, the Honorable Todd Thompson and media environmental psychologist Dr. Mary Gregerson present on Media First Response (MFR), the evidence-informed skills set for local officials’ effective mass media risk communication during disasters and crises. The Hon. Mr. Thompson relates his own MFR experiences after Dr. Gregerson preventively consulted with him and other local hometown officials. MFR preparedness empowers local officials during later potential catastrophes, like school safety and relocation of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Fort Leavenworth, to produce socially just, trauma buffering, effective risk communication through mass media. MFR (a) Diffuses rather than escalates potentially incendiary situations in at-risk communities, (b) Counters well-established trauma-by-television effects and promotes effective mass decision-making and responses, and (c) Prepares both community officials and journalists involved in broadcasting messages about crises.

In 2019 a planned Second Group MFR training will include psychologists and media experts that represent every American state as well as countries worldwide. Officials and journalists learn key cognitive and behavioral skills related to Message Contouring including framing, contexting, and social justice; Message Delivery of composure promotion and compartmentalization; and Social Responsibility. An Internet-based resources bibliography is provided during this panel.

2. Symposium: Surviving the Storm: A Neurons to Neighborhood Approach to Natural Disasters

Chair: Mary Gregerson, PhD, Heartlandia Psychology, Leavenworth, KS

A person-to-policy approach to natural disasters takes participants on a ‘neurons to neighborhood’ voyage that provides a unique perspective on the role of psychology in the aftermath of natural disasters. This 1-hour collaborative program provides a multi-divisional perspective on what psychologists should consider when responding in the wake of natural disasters to the needs of the individual, their hometown community, and the world. This program integrates talks on (a) individual neuronal and neuropsychological response to the trauma associated with natural disasters, (b) how to work with community groups, especially churches, during these moments of crisis, and (c) the MFR approach to contouring a positive mass media response and proactive influence on events. Mary Gregerson’s talk When Local Disasters Go Global, Will Your Hometown Use Media First Response to Counter Trauma-By-TV? highlights the six skills composing the pioneering, behavioral science evidence-informed MFR prevention approach.  A foundation in communications as well as media, trauma, cognitive, and environmental health psychology anchors Media First Response.

3. Fact and Fiction: The Media Role in False Narrative

Chair: Mary Gregerson, PhD, Heartlandia Psychology, Leavenworth, KS

It is time for “the rest of the story.” This Town Hall explores the understory of media misleading the public and American Psychological Association (APA) members concerning the 2014 Independent Review. Why accept a false narrative of conspiracy and collusion unsupported by objective facts? This program examines the representative case study of the APA—Independent Review–Journalism “rush to judgement” to scrutinize the power of today’s media to shape public and learned opinions and decisions. It is time to turn our questioning not inward but, rather, toward this document and its unbelievable twisting of American journalism toward the tawdry. What made APA such an easy media scapegoat? Where have disappeared our shared APA ideals and visions to serve and protect others, to elevate humankind, and to shine the way toward a brighter future?  This panel discussion furthers that climb upward from scandal to courageous recommitment to these ideals and visions.

4. Keeping the Bar High: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a World of Big Business and Mass Media

Chair: Annie Kleykamp, Pinney Associates, Baltimore, MD
Discussant: Mary Gregerson, Heartlandia Psychology, Leavenworth, KS

This symposium addresses how to maintain scientific integrity in a world where the business/private sector and mass media are playing an increasing role in how science is conducted and communicated. Annie Kleykamp, Pinney Associates, Baltimore, MD, begins this session by discussing how academic science informs industry and the methods whereby scientists can maintain scientific integrity when faced with challenges from a business setting. Janice Adelman, Retail Merchandising Solutions Inc. then focuses on representing science to the media and guarding how such information is best conveyed in order to support the best interests of public health. To prompt discussion and provide strategies for making science compatible with a future that most certainly includes involvement with the private sector and mass media, Discussant Mary Gregerson relates, as an example, stories from the MFR Corps, an innovative community consultation group of psychologists that applies behavioral science to mass media risk communication during natural disasters and/or community crises.

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