5 Risk 251 (1994)
Mass Media and Environmental Risk: Seven Principles

handle is hein.journals/risk5 and id is 261 raw text is: Mass Media and Enviromnental Risk:
Seven Principles*
Peter M. Sandman
1. The amount of coverage accorded an environmental risk topic is
unrelated to the seriousness of the risk in health terms. Instead, it relies
on traditional journalistic criteria like timeliness and human interest.
The observation that journalism focuses more on big controversies
than on big health risks is neither novel nor debatable. There is a niche
for public-service features about smoking, seat belts or radon, but in the
absence of a news peg these perennials are bound to get less attention
than a hot local Superfund fight. Journalists are in the news business,
not the education business or the health protection business.
For example, we did a content analysis of network evening news
coverage from January 1984 to February 1986.1 Using the Vanderbilt
University Television News Index and Abstracts rather than the
coverage itself, we identified 564 environmental risk stories, 1.7% of
the total air time in the evening newscasts. During the same period,
*   Most ideas in this article are grounded in research conducted at Rutgers
University between 1986 and 1992, when I was director of the Environmental
Communication Research Program (now the Center for Environmental
Communication [CEC]). Most was funded by the Hazardous Substance
Management Research Center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and carried
out in collaboration with Kandice L. Salomone, Michael R. Greenberg, David B.
Sachsman and other colleagues.
For a longer list of articles, write me at 54 Gray Cliff Road, Newton Centre, MA
02159. Or get the Publications List (and order form) of the Center for Environmental
Communication, P.O. Box 231, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick,
NJ 08903; (908) 932-8795.
** Dr. Sandman is a risk communication consultant, speaker and trainer. He
received his B.A. (Psychology) from Princeton University and his M.A.
(Communication) and Ph.D. (Communication) from Stanford University.
1   Michael R. Greenberg, David B. Sachsman, Peter M. Sandman & Kandice L.
Salomone, Network Evening News Coverage of Environmental Risk, 9 Risk Anal.
119 (1989) and Michael R. Greenberg, David B. Sachsman, Peter M. Sandman &
Kandice L. Salomone, Risk, Drama and Geography in Coverage of Environmental
Risk by Network TV, Journalism Quarterly, Sum. 1989, at 267.

5 Risi Health, Safety & Environment 251 [Summer 1994]

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