News media and the (de)construction of risk: How Flemish newspapers select and cover international disasters | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1757-1898
  • E-ISSN: 1757-1901


News media play an important role in giving publicity and meaning to global suffering, as it is mainly through media reports that the world perceives international risk situations. This article focuses on natural and technological disasters as part of the contemporary risk society and their (de)construction by Flemish news media. Applying quantitative content analysis, the study reveals that 70.8 per cent of all disasters occurring between 1986 and 2006 are neglected by the newspapers, for the large part disasters in less developed countries. Regarding news coverage, proximity appears to be the guiding principle. Disasters developing in western or high-income countries are well covered while distant crises in the peripheral south are struggling to get attention, unless they affect a huge number of (western) people. In general, this article supports the claim that disasters and other instances of risk are essentially media constructs: they exist only when covered by the media.


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