Reflecting the Hazard or Restating Old Views: Newspapers and Bushfires in Australia

November 1996 (VOL. 14, NO. 3)

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This paper illustrates that in the response and recovery phases of the 1994 Bushfire disaster in New South Wales, Australian and overseas newspaper reporting of the caused of bushfires focused on scapegoating. The popular scapegoats were arsonists or failure of a public authority to provide fire-breaks. Thus two items were featured whereas the causes of most bushfires are multidimensional and official reports rarely attribute a cause. \r\nThis paper applies an existing seven-theme classification of the content of newspaper reports to the 1994 event. Newspapers from local communities were examined and two other papers from fire-prone communities sin Australia. In addition, reports in two international papers were examined for accuracy. This paper establishes that causes are scapegoated but that accuracy of impact figures is preserved despite the distance. \r\n