The voices of the flood disaster. Hilversum radio and the Zeeland disaster 1953
Courteous silence, with a random stubborn news hunter challenging authority; this is a general image of the journalistic culture in the Fifties. This publication explores, with the aid of the documentation of the flood disaster of 1953, how distanced, staged and law-abiding the press would have been in those hectic and catastrophic days. After a description of the circumstances leading up to the disaster an analysis is made of the content, tone and empathy of, primarily, radio reports. In contrast to expectations it appears that the reporters, especially in the days immediately following the floods, described their own feelings and empathy in an atmosphere of togetherness, which was entirely contradictory to the general image of journalism in those years. The interviews with the victims were short and to the point, but figures of authority spoke frequendy and extensively into the microphone - without being 'cut off. However, the question put to these authority figures were not exactly critical; on the contrary, they were generally treated obsequiously, which of course was typical of the times. The listeners never heard about the initially chaotic aid, the late reactions of the authorities, or the badly maintained dykes. The true dramatic range of the disaster took days to realize because of difficulties in Communications and the inaccessibility of some of the most badly affected areas. Nevertheless, from that moment on the journalists themselves regained control and most well honoured journalistic conventions were resumed.