Media Coverage of the Bhopal Disaster: A Cultural Myth in the Making

March 1986 (VOL. 4, NO. 1)

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This content analysis of media coverage of the Bhopal disaster examines the way in which twelve media outlets reported the tragedy. Generally, the media--both television and print outlets--covered Bhopal as a discrete event, giving relatively little time and space to the underlying policy issues centering on technological hazards. Individuals tended to be portrayed as victims, and the powerful actors in the reports were institutions or those who represented them. The majority of coverage ranged from mild to severe in thematic depictions of helplessness. In addition, television\\'s visual portrayal of the event included a large number of images focusing on gas. The overall thematic thrust of the coverage is the creation of a new myth of societal extinction through industrial accident resulting from carefully designed political and economics policies. Individuals, even in democracies, are portrayed as having relatively little control in establishing the policy agenda.