Journalism, representation and the public sphere

Title chapter:Risk discourse in news media. Power to define danger?
Author:Eimante Zolubiene
Keywords: risk, news media, discourse, framing, a holistic approach
Abstract:The 21st century is being marked by a host of large-scale social threats: pandemics, natural catastrophes, terror attacks, political tensions and technological accidents. However real and material such events and processes are, they become socially visible and meaningful as risks, and an increasing awareness and presence of such risks is a particular characteristic of the societies we live in (Beck, 1992). By choosing what information to present and how, the media are crucial players in the construction and communication of risk (Kitzinger, 1999). While there has been a lot of studies about how media reports risks related to particular issues such as health, ecology or technology, a more holistic inquiry into the general features and dynamics of mediated risk discourse is missing. The atomistic approach to understanding mediated risk does not reveal the shared characteristics of the broader flow of information about risks, thus losing sight of a crucial part of the risk society argument - the fact that risks are complex and systemic (OECD 2003) rather than simple and linear (van Asselt and Renn, 2011). This chapter outlines a research design for systematically investigating media’s risk discourse as it appears across different areas such as social, economic, political, cultural, environmental or technological. Referring to the theoretical ideas regarding discourse espoused by Laclau and Mouffe (Laclau 1990, 1993; Mouffe 1993, 2008) as well as Foucault (1969), the chapter illustrates an approach to the study of mediated risks not as something inherent in objects, events or processes themselves, but as something constructed by the interplay of the media and other discourses.
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