From the Inside Out: Environmental Agency Views about Communications with the Public

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Abstract:

Relatively few studies have examined risk communication with the public from the viewpoint of the staff of institutions attempting such communications. This paper reports results of interviews with managers and staff of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, on their programs' current and ideal communications with the public. Q analysis revealed two orthogonal perspectives on current program communications, the Enthused and the Constrained views. The primary focus of their divergence was on the matter of commitment and support for such communications. The Enthused group felt that they had attitudinal support from program culture and managers; the Constrained group focused on the lack of concrete operational support in terms of time, money, and expertise. These differences between the two groups did not appear to be associated with gender, managerial status, education, communication training, or organizational unit. When ideal program communications were discussed, the focus was on the need for all kinds of commitment and support (i.e., culture, managers, time, money, building expertise through training), as well as on more proactive and responsive communication. Both perspectives agreed that communication with the public is essential to their programs' success, trying new ways to communicate is worthwhile, scientific bases for decisions are not compromised by communication, and communication is not delegated to specialists. While varying ideas were held of the public's capacity and interest in communication, citizens were largely not held responsible for communication problems.

Keywords: Organization; risk communication

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2006.00788.x

Affiliations: Department of Human Ecology, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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