Media Presentations of a Hazard Event and the Public’s Response: An Empirical Examination

November 1994 (VOL. 12, NO. 3)

Download this article

Very few studies in the area of media reports of hazards and disasters empirically examine the effect of specific characteristics of media portrayals of these situations on responses by the public and even fewer compare these effects across medium. Based on the literature, we derive hypotheses concerning the effect of degree of threat and personal relevance on responses to a hazard event that threatened the water supply of the Greater New Orleans area in the summer of 1988. Using time series analysis to examine all phases of the hazard event, we find that degree of threat significantly influences only one type of response – purchasing bottled water – and only when the threatening information comes from television reports. Personal relevance impacts both purchasing bottled water and calling a bottled water company, regardless of medium (television or newspaper). We discuss the conceptual and methodological implications of these results for future research.