Uncertainty, risk, and opportunity frames in Australian online media reports of the 2016 Great Barrier Reef mass coral-bleaching event

Marilyn Mitchell, Ted Roffey-Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Through a content analysis, this research aimed to discover how frequently the linguistic frames of scientific uncertainty, skepticism, risk, and opportunity were used in 224 Australian online news reports of the 2016 Great Barrier Reef mass coral-bleaching event, which virtually all climate scientists attribute to climate change. During this event, 29% of shallow-water coral died. Particularly, the research aimed to determine how often the frame of explicit risk was used compared to the other frames since explicit risk is considered by many to be the most honest and effective frame for communicating climate change. In this frame, the word “risk” is used and the odds, probabilities, or chance of something adverse happening to an asset are given. It is used commonly by people in business and the military. Reports were taken from six outlets: The Australian, Courier Mail, and Townsville Bulletin, each of which is owned by News Corp, and the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), ABC, and Guardian Australia edition. When comparing the outlets, skepticism was most dominant in the News Corp reports. In contrast, the opportunity frame was most dominant in the Guardian (47%) and ABC reports (30%), followed by scientific uncertainty in the SMH reports (40%). Across all the outlets, the explicit risk frame had the lowest salience (3%) and dominance (4%). It is recommended that journalists receive more training in using the explicit risk frame for reporting on actual and predicted climate change events.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalCogent Social Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2018


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