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Bulletin of Volcanology

, 77:29 | Cite as

Forecast communication through the newspaper Part 1: Framing the forecaster

  • Andrew J. L. HarrisEmail author
Review Article

Abstract

This review is split into two parts both of which address issues of forecast communication of an environmental disaster through the newspaper during a period of crisis. The first part explores the process by which information passes from the scientist or forecaster, through the media filter, to the public. As part of this filter preference, omission, selection of data, source, quote and story, as well as placement of the same information within an individual piece or within the newspaper itself, can serve to distort the message. The result is the introduction of bias and slant—that is, the message becomes distorted so as to favor one side of the argument against another as it passes through the filter. Bias can be used to support spin or agenda setting, so that a particular emphasis becomes placed on the story which exerts an influence on the reader’s judgment. The net result of the filter components is either a negative (contrary) or positive (supportive) frame. Tabloidization of the news has also resulted in the use of strong, evocative, exaggerated words, headlines and images to support a frame. I illustrate these various elements of the media filter using coverage of the air space closure due to the April 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (Iceland). Using the British press coverage of this event it is not difficult to find examples of all media filter elements, application of which resulted in bias against the forecast and forecaster. These actors then became named and blamed. Within this logic, it becomes only too easy for forecasters and scientists to be framed in a negative way through blame culture. The result is that forecast is framed in such a way so as to cause the forecaster to be blamed for all losses associated with the loss-causing event. Within the social amplification of risk framework (SARF), this can amplify a negative impression of the risk, the event and the response. However, actions can be taken to avoid such an outcome. These actions revolve around use of words and quotes that cannot easily be exaggerated or turned into “sledgehammer” or blaming headlines, while tracking the media for developing frames so as to guide future communications.

Keywords

Environmental hazard Forecast Newspaper Media filter Communication Frame Blame Social amplification of risk 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I need to express an enormous amount of gratitude to Tim Orr and Amy Donovan whose notes, comments, advice and insight, as detailed in their outstanding reviews, helped focus and complete this review. I am finally grateful for the training, experience and insights I received while working for the now defunct Research Surveys of Great Britain and then Audits of Great Britain (both London, UK).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansUniversité Blaise PascalClermont FerrandFrance

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