1. Select one of the theories discussed in Chapter 2 of the Ulmer, Selnow, and Seeger text. Prepare a quick summary in your own words of what the theory means and how it might be relevant in communicating in or regarding an emergency or disaster. Incorporate a real or hypothetical example or scenario to explain the theory. Think about what a theory is as you do this. Cite the text and any other reference sources you use using APA Style. Do not cite Wikipedia, search engines, or something like Jim-Bob’s blog. (The Theory I chose was News Framing Theory). The information on the theory is below and you can use the web as well. Submit your paper of approximately 250 words.
2. Hurricane Harvey communication and coverage analysis. View and/or read at least three articles, news conferences, official web pages, social media, or other communications related to Hurricane Harvey and its impacts on the Texas Gulf Coast. Prepare a short summary and analysis of the coverage you viewed/heard/read and note similarities and differences in content, tone or approach, focus, and presentation. How was official information (e.g., from emergency management, response organizations, or public officials) communicated and used (or not)? Submit your analysis of approximately 250 words. Note the media and other sources that are addressed in your summary.
3. Communication is a two-way street. After completing this week’s readings and presentations, write a short essay on the topic: “Communication is a two-way street.” What does this mean, and how does this affect our efforts to improve our own communication skills? Submit your essay of approximately 250-500 words in this assignment.
NEWS FRAMING THEORY
At the heart of news framing theory is the fact that “reporters and editors routinely choose among various approaches to the presentation of news stories” (Hook & Pu, 2006, p. 169). The approach selected results in a pattern of coverage that can frame a topic positively or negatively. The controversy inherent in many crises often intensifies and polarizes the framing process. For example, an organization may seek to frame a crisis as an aberration or as unavoidable. Conversely, the media may frame the same crisis as having manifested from a lack of responsible caution on the part of the organization. This type of polarity in framing crises is not unusual.
Table 2.2 Media Theories Contributing to the Understanding of Crisis Communication
The news framing process can have a profound impact on how readers and viewers perceive a crisis. For this reason, Holladay (2010) argues, “it is imperative that organizations participate in this framing process” (p. 161). If organizations remain passive in the framing process they make themselves completely vulnerable to their adversaries who will likely strive to tip the media coverage of the crisis negatively. For example, a metropolitan hospital recently responded to a budget shortfall by laying off a large number of nurses. Area media reported on the layoffs, framing the budget issues as having been caused by administrative mismanagement. Worse, the stories often featured laid off nurses with young children in tears over their impending financial hardship. Meanwhile, another hospital in the community offered to hire some of the nurses at comparable wages. The financially struggling hospital remained silent throughout the crisis. The hospital never fully recovered from the crisis and was eventually sold to another health management company. Had the hospital offered a competing explanation or frame for needing to lay off employees, the outcome might have been very different.
As the hospital example reveals, the framing process influences the public’s perception of the organizations afflicted with the crisis. If the crisis is framed in a way that reflects negatively on an organization, that organization’s ability to recover from the crisis is impaired or delayed. Hence, news framing theory advocates that organizations take an active role in the framing process.
Occasionally, news stories that would not normally top the media’s agenda do so when they are reported in a way that exemplifies the story. Exemplars are elements of a news story that are made memorable by their “visually vivid and emotionally strong” content (Aust & Zillmann, 1996, p. 788). Stories that are graphic in nature or that include a particularly disturbing visual element can capture audience attention and cause them to exaggerate the seriousness of the issue or event (Westerman, Spence, & Lachlan, 2009). This exaggeration is intensified when the viewers believe they are directly exposed or vulnerable to the risk that is exemplified (Westerman, Spence, & Lachlan, 2012). For example, when ABC News portrayed Lean Finely Textured Beef as “pink slime” in a series of news stories, the network, in essence, created an exemplar that, due to public outrage, rose on the media’s agenda and created a crisis for the product’s primary producer, Beef Products Incorporated. The power of exemplars to shift the media’s attention warrants caution on the part of reporters. Zillmann, Gibson, Sundar, and Perkins (1996) urge reporters to comprehend the influence of exemplars as well as the challenges for correcting or countering them once they are introduced to the public.
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