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The Role of the Media in Disaster Resilience: News Coverage of the 2010 BP Oil Spill

Sat, August 11, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 13

Abstract

What is the role of the media in local disaster resilience? Based on a context analysis of print and online media coverage of the 2010 BP Oil Spill, we examine the contributions of local and national news coverage to local disaster resilience and recovery. Overall, we find that the national coverage of the event tended to focus on episodic coverage of struggles to recovery and policy flaws that led to the disaster. This type of episodic coverage, in contrast to local media’s tendency to employ thematic coverage, contributes to “victim helplessness” by portraying a picture of suffering and inability to cope with disaster. In terms of resilience planning, this type of episodic coverage is more likely to impede resilience by limiting context and introducing misinformation regarding potential pathways towards recovery and the ability of individuals and communities to improvise and adapt during uncertain times. Our findings suggest that coverage in the New York Times followed this trend towards episodic coverage compared to local papers’ coverage of the spill in the Apalachicola Times and the Press Register. In examination over 300 newspaper articles, we conclude that local coverage aligns more with the core concepts of resilience.

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