Canadian Forest Service Publications

Expert perceptions of media reporting on a large-scale environmental risk issue: insights from mountain pine beetle management in Alberta, Canada. 2015. McFarlane, B.; Parkins, J.R.; Romanowksi, S. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 46(1):1-9.

Year: 2015

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36367

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2015-0195

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Abstract

The media play a key role in communicating risk issues and serve as a link between experts and the public. In this study we explore experts’ perspectives on the role of the media and media content with respect to a mountain pine beetle (MBP) epidemic in western Canada. We collected data using an Internet-based survey of 59 MPB experts in 2009 and 1 628 articles from local, regional and national newspapers from 2000 to 2008. Survey findings show that experts do not have a favourable view of media reporting of MPB. In our media analysis we found that the media are used effectively by experts to disseminate MPB risk information and to justify a swift response and control measures. Most articles reported information presented to them by government and industry. We conclude that the media played primarily an educational role and gave limited attention to fostering public dialogue on MPB management.

Plain Language Summary

The mountain pine beetle (MPB) is causing widespread infestation of pine forests in western Canada and is threatening to expand its range eastward. Communicating with the public about the beetle, and having public support for government policy and management response are key to effective MPB management. In this study we examine expert views of media reporting on MPB in Alberta, how the media has framed the MPB issue, and to what extent MPB media coverage is consistent with expert views of the media. We collected data using an internet-based survey and newspaper articles. The survey findings show that MPB experts did not have a favourable view of the media and did not trust the media to represent MPB in a responsible manner, and perceived public views as not informed by scientific information. The media analysis, however, showed that the experts’ views are largely unfounded. We found that the media are used effectively by experts to disseminate MPB risk information and to justify a swift response and control measures. Most articles reported information presented to them by government and industry. We conclude that the media played primarily an educational role and gave limited attention to fostering public dialogue on MPB management.