The roles of news media as democratic fora, agenda setters, and strategic instruments in risk governance: A double international case study on earthquake risk

Alette Eva Opperhuizen*, Susanna Pagiotti, Jasper Eshuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

This study analyzes news media’s role in governmental decision-making processes related to a gradually intensifying series of earthquakes resulting from gas drilling in the Netherlands, and catastrophic natural earthquakes in Italy. According to the risk governance actors interviewed in both cases, media play three roles, as: democratic fora, agenda setters, and strategic instruments. Media attention for risk can create ripple effects in governmental decision-making processes. However, media attention tends to be risk-event driven and focuses on direct newsworthy consequences of events. For ‘non-event risks’, or when newsworthiness after a risk-event fades, the media’s agenda setting and democratic fora roles are limited. This contributes to risk attenuation in society, potentially resulting in limited risk prevention and preparedness. Governmental actors report difficulties in using news media for strategic communication to facilitate risk governance because of media’s tendency towards sensationalism. Our research suggests that, in the governance of earthquake-risk news, media logic overrules other institutional logics only for a short while and not in the long run when the three roles of media do not reinforce each other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1517-1531
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Volume24
Issue number12
Early online date27 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2020

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