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News media and the (de)construction of risk: How Flemish newspapers select and cover international disasters

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News media play an important role in giving publicity and meaning to global suffering, as it is mainly through media reports that the world perceives international risk situations. This article focuses on natural and technological disasters as part of the contemporary risk society and their (de)construction by Flemish news media. Applying quantitative content analysis, the study reveals that 70.8 per cent of all disasters occurring between 1986 and 2006 are neglected by the newspapers, for the large part disasters in less developed countries. Regarding news coverage, proximity appears to be the guiding principle. Disasters developing in western or high-income countries are well covered while distant crises in the peripheral south are struggling to get attention, unless they affect a huge number of (western) people. In general, this article supports the claim that disasters and other instances of risk are essentially media constructs: they exist only when covered by the media.

Keywords: extra-media data; natural and technological disasters; news values; quantitative content analysis; selective inaccuracy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Ghent University.

Publication date: 2010-11-01

More about this publication?
  • The Catalan Journal of Communication and Cultural Studies (CJCS) is committed to publishing research and theoretical articles in the fields of media studies, popular culture and cinema, public relations and advertising studies, social communication, new media, language uses in the media, communication and cultural policies, social and national identities, gender studies, sports and leisure, tourism and heritage, among other related issues. CJCS publishes double blind peer-reviewed articles and its aims and scope cover not only Catalan media and cultural systems but also other social contexts.
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