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The mass media and hurricane disaster alerts

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Material Information

Title:
The mass media and hurricane disaster alerts
Series Title:
Quick response research report ;
Physical Description:
5 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
Ledingham, John A
Walters, Lynne Masel
University of Colorado, Boulder -- Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center
Publisher:
Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado
Place of Publication:
Boulder, Colo
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Mass media and public opinion -- Texas -- Galveston Island   ( lcsh )
Natural disaster warning systems -- Public opinion -- Texas -- Galveston Island   ( lcsh )
Hurricanes -- Public opinion -- Texas -- Galveston Island   ( lcsh )
Genre:
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Statement of Responsibility:
John Ledingham, Lynne Masel-Walters.
General Note:
"Preliminary report"--P. 1.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 001984908
oclc - 298553469
usfldc doi - F57-00016
usfldc handle - f57.16
System ID:
SFS0001097:00001


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NaturalHazardsResearchandApplicationsInformationCenterCampusBox482UniversityofColoradoBoulder,Colorado80309-0482THEMASSMEDIAANDHURRICANEDISASTERALERTSJohnLedinghamLynneMasel-WaltersI 1986QuickResponseResearch Report#12This publication is partofthe Natural Hazards Research&Applications Information Center's ongoing Quick Response Research Report Series. http://wwW.colorado.edu/hazardsInstituteofBehavioralScience #6 (303)492

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PRELIMINARY REPORT:TheMassMedia&HurricaneDisasterAlertsbyJohnA.Ledingham&LynneMasel-Walters*.*Theauthorsarelistedalphabetically.onthisresearchprojecttobeofequal report isco-authored, l..,i thno"senior"Theyconsidertheirefforts value. Further,theresearchor"junior"authorship.IntroductionTheliteratureconcerningthemassmediaanddisastersisvariedandextremelyinteresting.Suchresearchfallsintotwodistinctbodiesofliterature.Oneconcernsdisasterscreatedbymankind;assassinations,chemicaldisasters,bombings,terrorismandthelike.Theother c?ncerns naturaldisasters,suchasstorms,floods,earthquakesandsimilarnon-createddisasters.AcompletereviewoftheliteratureinfoundinearlierworkbytheauthorsreportedinNewspaperResearchJournal,Winter,1985inanarticleentitled"Writtenonthe Hind: TheMass Hedia andHurricaneAlicia."Throughtheliterature,severalsourcesofinformationwereseenasplayingaroleinthedecision-makingprocessresidentsgothroughwhenselectingappropriatebehaviorduringthewarningphaseofanaturaldisaster.Theseincludedthemassmedia,interpersonalsources,statementsbypublicofficials,agencieschargedwithresponsibilityforalertingthepopulacetodanger,andtheirown(theresidents)pastexperiencewithsimilarsituations.Informationprocessingtheoryprovidesthebackdropforthatstudyandthesubsequentstudy.Atonetime,informationprocessingwasseenbymediascholarsasaone-stepprocess.Inthatperspective,informationwasdisseminatedbythemassmediatoawaitingaudiencethatthenreacted(monolithically,itwasthought)tothatmessage.Theone-stepanalysisofinformationflowandhumanbehaviorwassupportedbytheviewthatmediawereextremelypowerfulintheirabilityto humansanddirecttheactionofaudiencemembers.Studiesofso-called"opinionleaders"ledtoasomewhatmorecomplexviewofconununication flm., andinformationprocessingas"two-step."Studiesofthevariouscomponentsconcernedwithmessageorigination,dissemination, receipt andresponse 11C.1Ve alteredthewayinwhichinformationprocessing viewed. Today,mostscholarswould thatcommunicatedareprocessed throughanexusofintervening variables,sources,and processes.Themassmedia are, inthiscontext,butoneofthose variables --whatwe

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Page2 ., havetermed"spheresofinfluence."If,indeed,informationprocessingflowsthroughvarioussources,then,anadditionalperspectiveiscalledintoquestion.Formanyyears,communicationscholarshaveconductedresearch for decadeswithintheLaswellianParadigm.Thatframeworkforexaminingcommunicationflowstatesthatcommunicationcanbeexaminedwithinthecontextof"whosayswhattowhomthroughwhichmediumormediawithwhateffect."Asiseasilyseen,the Laswellian Paradigm,aswerethe"all-powerfuleffects"theoryandthe"one-step"theory,operatesessentiallyfromtheperspectiveofthemessageoriginator.Theprocessofcommunication,inthisview,isdrivenbyapersonorentity,utilizingamassmedium.Interactionisseenasoccuringwithina.processinwhichthemessageflowsfromoriginatortoaudien(However,somescholarsprefertotakeadifferentviewofthecomnlunicationprocess.Inthisframework,communicationmessagesarenotexaminedfromtheperspectiveofthemessageoriginator,but,rather,fromthatoftheaudiencemember.Thus,theLaswellianParadigmisturnedinsideout,stoodonitshead,andrestatedintermsthatencompass"whouseswhatmessagesfromwhichmediumormediatogratify "\V'hat need."Inthis"usesandgratifications"paradigm,theaudiencememberisseenasactingasamessageconsumerselectingfromthemyriadmediamessagesthosewhichheorshewantstoattendto,basedonthatindividual'sownneeds,wants,background,attitudesandpredispositions.Somecommunicationscholarsarelessthanenthusiasticwhere"usesandgratifications"researchisconcerned,seeingitasasomewhatelevatedversionofmarketingconsumerresearch.Others,ofcourse,findthat"usesandgratifications"perspectivesholdthepotentialforexplainingmoreabout humnn behaviorthantheLaswellianapproachAsincreasinglyadvertisingandpublicrelationsbecomecommonpartsofthecorrununicationcurriculum,morescholarswhoworkinthoseareasofresearchbringtotheirlaborsapointofviewabouthumanbehaviorandmediagroundedin a marketingperspective,whichisessentiallyausesandgratificationsframeworkforexaminingtheuses and effectsofmediamessages. Adoption theory,whichattemptsto explnintheprocess of adoption or an innovation,isatheartaIsl a usc S:111dgrali [ icat 1.0n \)('n,pee li.v c .

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/.age3Moreover,theoriesofactiveselectiononthepart-of"mediaconsumers"aresupportedbyconceptsofselectiveattention,selectiveperceptions,andselectiveretention.Theseconceptsholdthataudiencememberschoosefromtheavailablemediamessagesthosemessageswhichrelatetomatterstheaudiencememberalreadyisinterestedin.Moreover,thosemessages are perceivedindifferentways,withthemajoreffectof media messagesseenasreinforcingalreadyexistingpredispositions,beliefsandattitudes.Additionally,somemessagesareretained,whilemanyarenot.Again,theissueofwhichonesaresavedandwhichdiscardedseemsbasedonthe relative importanceofthatmessageinsupportingpositionsalreadyheld,orbecauseoftheirabilitytobeusefulinreducingcognitivedissonance,thesituationthatresultsfromholdingtwoconflictingnotionssimult.aneously.Thesituationwithregardtowarningmessagesthatareissuedintimesofthreateningnaturaldisastersprovidesarichareaforthestudyof andananalysisofsourcesused,andtheirrelativeimportance.Awarningofimpendingdisastertriggersasetofresponses,manyconflicting,intheminosofresidents.ShouldIleave? What,\-1ill happentomypropertyifIdoleave? What mayhappentomyfamily,ormyself,ifIdonotleave?Whatactionsareappropriate? ill1ich ones do notconflictgreatlywithmypreferredaction? What doothersthinkaboutthesituation? What aretheygoingtodo? What dopublicofficialstellmetodo?Aretheycorrect? What aboutpublic agencies?And, themassmedia--whatdothemediaadvise?ShouldI believe themedia,oraretheycryingwolf?Inshort,what are the forcessel inmotionbyawarningofanimpendingnaturaldisaster? Aremessages effective(dothey motivate theintendedaction)? What sourcesdoresidentsuse,inwhatways,togratifywhatneeds?Our earlierresearch focusedon thereactions ofresidentsofGalveston Island,Texas towarningsoftheimpendingarrivalof llurricaneAlicia.Alicia,as itturnedout, wasa fiercehurricane thnt destroyedmillionsof dollars ofproperty,litteredthestreetsof nea rby ton, TeX;\8\oJ i t"11g1.:18Sand debris,topp1cd trees ontohomesthroughoutthe Northern Gulf area of Texas,,:1[1<.1 floodedlarge

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/ areasofGalvestonIsland.Miraculously,noonewaskilledasthedirectresultof Hurricane Alicia.Yet,inspiteofseveraldaysofwarning,mostGalvestonIslander.didnotleavetheirhomes.Thereasonwhyiswrappedinapackage0politicalhaggling,alackofconfidenceinpublicofficials,confliinginterpersonaladvice,andtheresidentsownpastexperience.MalhadresidedinGalvestonwhenHurricaneAllenhadbeenforecasttohittheislandcommunity.Instead,HurricaneAllenveeredatthela:moment,missingGalvestoncompletely,butleavingamassivetrafficjamofGalvestonianswhohadthoughtitprudenttofleetheisland.WhenHurricaneAliciawasforecast,Galvestonianswerenotadvisedtlleave.Apparently,nopoliticalfigurewantedthathotpotato. Tex, GovernorMarkWhiteposturedthatperhapsMayorGusManualofGalvesoughttoadviseresidentstoevacuate.Themayor,onhispart,didIthinkevacuationthroughouttheislandnecessary.SomeresidentsreportedthattheydidnothearofthewarningsuntilmerehoursbeforeAlicia came ashoreinallherfury.Mostwhohadheardthewarningstalkedwithfriends,neighborsandco-workersaboutwhattodo.Inmanyinstances,theAllenstorywasre-told,reinforcingthereluctancetoleavetheirhomesformanyoftheresidents.ThestudyofHurricaneAliciaestablishedabenchmarkofsortsagainstwhichtomeasurethebehaviorofGalvestoniansinfuturesituationssimilartoAlicia.WouldtheeventssurroundingAliciacolo'thebehaviorofGalvestoniansinafuturehurricanewarningsituatiolasHurricaneAllenhadpredisposedGalvestonianstostayforAlicia?Thatquestionisthefocusofoursecondstudyinmassmedia,commulicationandbehavior.Tofindout,wepreparedtobereadytogointothefieldthenextimeahurricanewasforecast.HurricaneDannyprovidedthatopportity.Withthemixedfeelings that mustbetypicaltothoseinvolvedinresearchofthistype,wewaitedwhile Danny stayedoffshore,danouslyteasingtheresidentsofGalveston.ThemediawatchedalongwiththeresidentsofGalveston.AsitappearedDannywouldhitGalveston,weenteredthefieldwithatelephonesurveyofthosesamresidentswho we had interviewedregardingHurricane Alicia.

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Page5WeaskedtheserespondentswhatactiontheyhadtakenduringthewarningperiodprecedingthearrivalofAlicia,whattheyhadheardthroughthemedia,throughothersources,whattheyperceivedtobethepositionofpublicofficials,andthecriticalquestionofwhetherornot,ifDanny waspredictedtohitwithaforceroughlyequalthatofAlicia,theywouldevacuatepriortothestorm'sarrival.Morethan200respondentsfromouroriginalsurveywereincludedinthissecond providingtheopportunitytoexaminethebehavioroftheseresidentsovertimewithregardtowarningmessages.Inadditiontothose respondents,additionalresidents wereintervieweduntilatotalof400+telephoneinterviewswerecompleted.Thoseresultsarebeingenteredforstatisticalanalysis.WhenthatportionoftheprojectiscomIlleted,weshouldbeabletogainsomeinsightintotheroleAliciaplayedwithregardtodecisionsmade when Danny wasforecast.Wewillalsohavetheopportunitytoagainexaminetheusesofmassmediaandotherspheresofinfluencecalledintoplayinanaturaldisasterenvironment.And,wewillhavetheopportunitytodetermineiftherearepolicymattersthatcanbeaddressed--suchaswhoissueswarnings,publicunderstandingofwarningratings,andauthorityfororderingevacuations--astheresultofthecompanionstudiesofthewarningphaseofnaturaldisastersituations.


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