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Survivors’ experiences of journalists and media exposure: A retrospective qualitative study 15 years after a ferry disaster

Liselotte Englund (Risk Management Unit, Department of Environmental and Life Sciences, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden)
Filip K. Arnberg (Department of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, National Centre for Disaster Psychiatry, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 14 September 2018

Issue publication date: 16 October 2018




The media is an important part of disaster management, yet little is understood about their interplay with the disaster survivors. The purpose of this paper is to examine disaster survivors’ long-term retrospective views of their experiences with journalists and the media coverage.


In total, 22 Swedish adult survivors (of 49 eligible) from a ferry disaster in the Baltic Sea, in which only 137 of the 989 people onboard survived, were interviewed after 15 years about their experiences of meeting journalists in the immediate aftermath and the media coverage in a long-term perspective. The transcribed interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis.


Survivors from the Estonia ferry disaster described a wide array of experiences from their contacts with the disaster journalists and being exposed in the media. From their experiences, four categories were extracted. The categories were common for both their media contacts and their media exposure: strain, support, rationality and evasion. The survivors’ experiences were both negative and positive.

Research limitations/implications

These accounts of disaster survivors’ experiences from an event 15 years ago provide an interesting comparison for future studies of contemporary disasters.


This study provides important perspectives on the role of disaster coverage in the media and documents how disaster survivors retrospect on the media as both a burden and a resource.



Englund, L. and Arnberg, F.K. (2018), "Survivors’ experiences of journalists and media exposure: A retrospective qualitative study 15 years after a ferry disaster", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 573-585.



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