Crisis, the Finnish Red Cross and the Media Society

The Finnish Red Cross in Domestic Crisis

In this study we researched recent crises confronted by the Finnish people in the context of the Finnish Red Cross (FRC). The central theoretical frame was to examine the crucial interaction between humanitarian agencies and the media (Cottle & Nolan 2007) and the function of FRC in a mediatized society. In addition, we analysed the kinds of disaster responses the authorities and the FRC agents followed, in times of crisis (Comfort, Ko, Zagorecki 2004). Crisis management models have previously been centrally supervised. This research has proven that the centre point of crises has shifted away from organizations and towards the media. The Asian tsunami and the Jokela school shootings, for instance demonstrated that in a crisis, the Internet, together with the new information technology create a global media through which people can connect, search for information and share experiences.

In a time of crisis, organizations must take into consideration the ever-present media. The media is currently drawing power away from previously influential institutions, and all social authorities have become dependent on it. The FRC has also become mediatized according to these media logics. Catastrophes, crises and disasters give the FRC repeatedly media publicity, which in itself helps the FRC to carry out its humanitarian work. On the other hand, by answering to the demands of media logics, the humanitarian organizations simultaneously diminish their chances of advancing the historical project of global humanitarianism.
The Asian tsunami, the Jokela and Kauhajoki school shootings, the Naantali fire and the shootings at the Sello shopping centre have been extremely serious crises for all involved – surviving victims, friends and colleagues as well as schools and communities.

In the case of Asian tsunami, the Finnish Red Cross became a Government-needed organization that was considered to have the necessary preparedness for rescue work. In this way the tsunami was a turning point in Finnish crisis management. The school shootings produced a different kind of serious social crisis, as neither the FRC nor the crisis management authorities had been prepared for this kind of an event. Our research demonstrates that in a time of crisis, a collectively-shared communiqué is important for saving lives and helping victims. Crises, in the context of social research, are not just about crisis management, but about the phenomena produced by social structures, social relations and the media.

Press release in Finnish

Summary in Finnish (pdf)

Research report in Finnish (pdf)
Minttu Tikka, Salli Hakala & Maarit Pedak (2010)
Crisis, the Finnish Red Cross and the Media Society. The Finnish Red Cross in Domestic Crisis.