Fighting the raging beasts' blaze: Examining the effect of framing in wildfire news reports on risk perception
Research regarding message framings and risk perception for wildfires in a Canadian context is scarce. The sparseness of such research is disheartening, especially in an era when climate variability seriously affects wildfire severity and frequency and the associated changes in peoples’ perception of their relative risk to the fires. The purpose of this research is to explore different wildfire framings in local British Columbian (B.C.) media and how these framings influence individual risk perceptions and behavioural intentions. Local news report headlines and opening statements for imminent wildfire events are often dominated by metaphoric framings, especially with antagonistic connotations. While these metaphors are often utilized as a conceptual tactic to be interpreted by the public more concretely, little research has been conducted as to whether this tactic informs the public in a healthy, adaptive way. The first part of this thesis (study one) is a media analysis of current message framings for wildfires and their associated health risks, using 161 online news reports in B.C. Findings show that the most common framings were metaphorical and statistical and, more scarcely, health risk related. The most common framings were used to develop vignettes to examine local wildfire perceptions (study two). Following the media analysis, study two involved the use of an online survey (n = 206) to assess individual risk perceptions and behavioural intentions about three hypothetical wildfire scenarios framed with metaphors, statistics, or health risks. The results show that wildfires described with metaphors and statistics led community members to perceive wildfires as more severe. The statistical framing also led community members to perceive wildfires as more concerning, and women typically had higher ratings of concern and intentions to engage in health-protective behaviours. Findings from this research will contribute to the growing body of health and emergency communication literature. In collaboration with knowledge translation leads at the Interior Health Authority in B.C. (IHA-BC), preliminary findings will be shared with local public health units and emergency services to advocate for the most apt wildfire messaging strategies.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/29505
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