Have Newspaper, Will Travel?


The media serve society in times of emergencies by relaying messages from official sources and by checking this information with independent story sources.7 Media users take the received messages, process them along with those from other informants, and make decisions about the event.

For example, residents in a coastal area might listen to reports about the strength and path of an approaching hurricane, consider it with the advice given by friends, factor in their past storm experiences and then decide to evacuate the area.18

Although there are other influences, the media’s ability to distribute messages to the masses makes them appropriate candidates for study and criticism.

Media's role in audience behavior

The hurricane example mentioned earlier was the subject of a study conducted some years ago.18 While the focus was on mass communication as a warning system, the study’s look at behavior can be used when examining news coverage of disasters.

  • Method: Survey of Galveston, Texas, residents to gauge reaction to media coverage of Hurricanes Alicia and Danny.
  • Some findings: People made decisions about leaving the area after getting information from both the media and interpersonal channels. More than 60% of those surveyed said the media was fairly accurate in covering events.
  • Conclusion: “The media played a major role in behavior that followed the alert.”
This sounds obvious but it has important implications. What other behaviors might the media affect? 
Continue to Studies pg. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4


Copyright © 2003

Heather M. Edwards

Last Updated 4/16/03

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