12/07/2011 05:47 pm ET

Media Experts Grapple With The End Of The World

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. But regardless of how the apocalypse goes down, one question rages: how will the media cover it?

Will the live-tweets of our demise be hashtagged "#bang" or "#whimper?" Will Thomas Friedman have enough time to pen one more lamentation about our leaders' inability to come together ("All President Obama had to do to secure the votes to make Torchwood operational was agree to a series of tax cuts on job creators, but in the end, his leadership was lacking."). And should he live to see the Sunday after the cataclysm, will John McCain get booked on "Meet (What's Left Of) The Press?"

These were the kinds of questions discussed during "Reporting the End of the World," a panel assembled by Andrew Fitzgerald, senior producer of Al Jazeera's "The Stream." Fitzgerald describes the project, which sought to determine how journalists will function in the event of calamity, in detail at his blog.

The panel he put together settled on and gamed out two scenarios: alien invasion and global pandemic.
I'm willing to take the latter scenario rather seriously, actually! Still, it seems that the alien invasion will be more "fun," in an "I'm really enjoying all of this abject terror" sort of way.

Both scenarios provide great opportunities to do public service journalism, “news-you-use” like “what looks like an alien’s claw-hand is actually its mouth-tube, be careful not to approach it with your delicious human guts.” A lot of reporting on aliens would be informing the public of the areas of conflict to avoid. A lot of reporting on global pandemic would be widely disseminating information about the disease.


In the pandemic scenario, how do you reporting on raging disease if you can’t go outside? We talked about building a self-reporting platform where a network around the globe could send in information about the spread of disease. Google already has a leg up on us with Global Flu Trends.

Based upon the panel's discussion, I volunteer to remain inside in either scenario:

All of us have trained for reporting in non-conflict zones. But in an alien invasion, all zones became conflict zones. As David Carr pointed out, “In conflict journalism, it’s the symmetries of war that keep reporters safe.” But there is no symmetry in our war with our would-be destroyers.

Carr has his own writeup of the panel over at The New York Times. And ThinkProgress culture blogger Alyssa Rosenberg hopes that the discussion generates something for the silver screen. For my part, I'll say that when Aaron Sorkin's new show "Newsroom" has its eventual series finale, it goes out on a dramatic depiction of the End Times.

Ultimately, a fictionalized version of these possible events would be superior to what would actually happen. If the 2011 Acelastan Earthquake is any guide, when the alien invasion comes, reporters will probably just check into "Alienapocalypse" on Foursquare and get incinerated in a fusillade of death rays.

Reporting the end of the world [Andrew Fitzgerald @ Promiscuous Intelligence]
The World Is Ending, Please Update The Homepage [Media Decoder]

How To Survive The Apocalypse: Some Things You Need To Know Before The World Ends

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