Media coverage of humanitarian crises 'has significant effect on donations'

Paper by University of Michigan researchers says an extra minute of broadcast news or 700 words in a major paper can bring in between 13 and 18 per cent more money

Destruction caused after an earthquake
Destruction caused after an earthquake

Media coverage of humanitarian crises can have significant effects on the amounts raised by charities running appeals, according to research from the University of Michigan in the US.

The working paper Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After The 2004 Tsunami analyses donations made online to eight relief agencies that made appeals in the 100 days after the Asian tsunami in 2004.

Researchers measured media coverage by the number of minutes of tsunami-related reporting on each of the three most popular evening broadcasts and the word counts of tsunami-related articles published in major newspapers.

According to the working paper, they found that an additional minute of time allocated to tsunami coverage on the evening news increased that day’s donations by an average of 13.2 per cent.

And one additional 700-word article raised donations by 18.2 per cent on average.

The researchers took into account factors such donor fatigue and the fact that images became less shocking to people over a number of weeks.

The report concludes there was a clear link between media coverage of humanitarian crises and charitable giving.

"This conclusion suggests that encouraging media to keep humanitarian crises in the news is in the best interest of relief agencies," it says. "Media-savvy charities have certainly done so by making themselves available for updates long after disasters struck."

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