Risk, Stigma, Trustworthiness, and Citizen Participation—A Multifaceted Analysis of Media Coverage of Dioxin Contamination in Midland, Michigan by
Publication Date: October 2019
Journal Title: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Abstract: In the United States, more than 200 communities are designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as areas of concern for dioxins. Informing the public about potential risks associated with dioxins and delivering information about how to avoid such risks are essential activities. News coverage of environmental and health problems affects how members of the public assess those problems in terms of both severity and how they are understood, as well as the extent of attention given to the problem by policy-makers. To contextualize public and institutional responses to dioxin contamination and remediation in a dioxin-affected community, we assessed 176 newspaper articles published over 30 years concerning dioxin contamination in Midland, Michigan, in terms of risk, trust in institutions, environmental stigma, and citizen participation. Articles about dioxin contamination and remediation in Midland appeared in both domestic and international newspapers. Domestically, both national and local newspapers covered this issue. The risks for human health and the environment caused by exposure to dioxins were widely covered, with much less media attention given to the trustworthiness of the organizations responsible for managing the risk, environmental stigma, and citizen participation. News coverage of these four themes also changed significantly overtime. Overall, our findings highlight the important role of local news media in communicating risk information, guiding safe behaviors, and facilitating community-level decision-making.
Author: Jie Zhuang, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies