Environmental Stories Define Problems, Not Solutions

Environmental Stories Define Problems, Not Solutions

Major, Ann M

An analysis of Pennsylvania newspapers shows that most environmental stories focused on issues such as sewage, water pollution and land development, not on issues such as global warming.

Shoemaker and Reese1 argue that the news media are the primary source from which most people obtain their knowledge of the world’s events and issues, and studies focusing on environmental news have confirmed that news is the public’s primary source of information about environmental issues and problems.2 According to Tuchman, news disseminates “information that people want, need and should know,” and “news organizations both circulate and shape knowledge.”3 This study examines how environmental issues are reported in the news as problems and the claims that are included to support or refute those asserted problems.

This content analysis examines a sample of 841 environmental news stories drawn from 69 Pennsylvania daily newspapers focusing on 11 environmental issues.4 According to studies of social problems, individuals or groups recognize conditions of discrepancy and then define those conditions as problems.5 The identification of problems is a political process and is far from monolithic because what is recognized as a problem for some groups and individuals is not necessarily a problem for others. Defining social and political problems is a negotiated and socially-constructed activity and the news media play a critical role in legitimating6 and shaping the definitions of environmental issues over time.

When an environmental problem that impacts a community is recognized, most residents must rely on government and scientific sources for information about the problem and potential solutions.7 Claimsmakers actively work to define conditions of discrepancy in an effort to make those conditions meaningful to the community. The primary claimsmakers include community activists, local corporate interests, local and state governments and the news media.8 In their efforts to define problems, claimsmakers not only define problems but also assert statements of value to justify problem definitions or conditions of discrepancy. As claimsmakers, reporters and editors employ journalistic values in selecting sources and defining issues.

This content analysis examines how 11 environmental issues reported in the Pennsylvania daily press were defined as problems and how story sources and environmental and news values were related to problem definitions. Instead of selecting stories about specific environmental issues such as global climate change, this content analysis focuses on general environmental news, which provides a glimpse into the nature of environmental issues that are covered on a daily basis in the press.

Defining Environmental Issues as Problems

This study employs the concept of the problematic situation as a means of operationalizing how an environmental issue or problem is defined.9 Because the news media confer legitimacy on problems as they emerge on the public agenda,10 most of the news that is reported is assumed to be problem-focused as a result of the values that editors and reporters use in determining what is news. For example, a state environmental agency’s investigation into a manufacturing plant’s release of chemical byproducts into a local river may be transformed into the problem of a loss of clean water and damage to a trout habitat in a local newspaper story. The study of how issues are transformed into problems in news stories provides a way of examining not simply those issues but also the meanings that reporters, editors and other story sources ascribe to those issues.

To better understand how issues are constructed as problems in the news, Edelstein and his colleagues developed the framework of the problematic situation from a review of the educational, problem-solving research.” Communication performs an important role in transforming a social problem from the abstract problem stage to the problematic situation wherein the problem is defined, the stage where a problem takes on meaning that then can be shared in the communication process. Furthermore, the transformation of an issue into a defined problem may be perceived from an individual and / or societal perspective in terms of how individuals and larger social groups construct the meaning of problems.12 In comparing news content analyses with survey data, Edelstein et al. found a positive correlation between journalistic constructions of general social and economic problems and audience constructions of those same problems across four cultures.13

Problem Definitions

The coding scheme outlines six problem conditions based on meaning categories found in the problem-solving literature.14 Issues in the news can be described or defined in a story without any stated discrepancy or reference to a problem. In this case, the issue or statement would be defined as “no problematic situation.” A problem defined in terms of something once possessed or valued that is now gone is a “societal or individual loss of value.” An “individual or societal need for value” arises when the problem is constructed in terms of an individual or social need that must be fulfilled to end a situation of discrepancy.

Problems constructed as clashes, disagreements, interruptions of progress, or general discord between and among individuals, groups, institutions or nations are labeled as “conflict.” When the situation of discrepancy is ambiguous or uncertain, the problem is defined as an “indeterminate situation.” When proposals are outlined or demands are raised that propose solutions to the problem or evaluate the solutions, the condition is defined as “steps toward a solution.”

A number of content analyses have examined news from a problemfocused framework. In one analysis of 252 global climate change stories in the prestige press, Trumbo found that 93 percent of the stories defined the climate issue as a problem.15 In a study of front-page newspaper coverage in four countries, 86 percent of the six most prominent front-page stories defined issues as problems.16 A study of the relationship between story sources and problem definitions found that government and activists sources were more likely to be associated with proposed solutions to the climate change problem than were scientists suggesting that solutions to environmental problems are likely to be political rather than scientific decisions.17

News Sources as Claimsmakers

As claimsmakers, journalists rely on source attribution in the reporting of the news as a means of validation.18 Gans found that the diversity of sources in U.S. news is limited because of constraints on the news process (i.e., the availability of news sources, journalistic routines, and organizational constraints).19 Most of the studies of news sourcing report that government officials are the most frequently quoted news sources.20 In one study, almost 75 percent of the news sources published in The New York Times and The Washington Post during a 20-year period were government officials.21 Support for government officials as primary claimsmakers also has been found in environmental news coverage.22 In addition, the number of governmental sources increased in conflict-based news stories when compared with routine story sources.23

Environmental Concern Values

In the reporting of environmental news, values play a critical role in the support and refutation of the management of environmental protection. Studies of the environmental movement have shown that some members of the public hold underlying values toward the environment and nature that have been described as representing a continuum ranging from the dominant social paradigm (DSP) to the new environmental paradigm (NEP).24 The DSP represents values placing a greater emphasis on economic growth than on environmental protection, humankind’s dominance over the earth and other species, the need to reduce environmental legislation restricting industry and the efficacy of technological solutions to environmental problems. NEP values emphasize the inherent value of nature and wilderness, the dominance of nature over humankind, the need for stronger environmental protection and the belief that the welfare of society must be considered first when addressing environmental problems.25 Each news story was coded for statements reflecting either the NEP or DSP.26

News Values

News values clearly play a role in the definition of news content. Newsmakers draw on daily events and issues and select those topics or issues that are deemed most important on the daily news agenda. Those topics then are transformed through the selection of problem definitions and news value or values that contribute to the story, which is then supported with source attribution.

The dominant news values defined in the literature include newness, timeliness, prominence, significance, proximity, conflict, unusualness and human interest.27 The lead paragraph of each of the 814 stories was coded for the presence or absence of any and all of the eight news values.

Research Question

In an effort to develop a problem framework for examining environmental issues in the news, this content analysis seeks to answer the following research question:


What problem definitions, news sources and environmental concern and news values are associated with individual environmental issues reported in the daily news?


The Sample

The 841 stories in the constructed-month sample were drawn from more than 12,000 items in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s state-wide news clipping file. To construct the month, four dates between September 1,1997, and August 31,1998, were drawn at random for each day of the week providing a 28-day month. To complete a 31-day month, three dates were drawn at random from the entire test period. All stories in the clipping file that were published on the selected dates are included in the sample. Of the 93 Pennsylvania daily newspapers listed in the 1999 Burrelle’s directory,28 69 (74.2 percent) are included in the sample.

Each news story was coded for 72 variables.29 Eleven general environmental issue categories were developed from the 65 individual issues identified in the news including air pollution, burning, energy, environmental policy, land development, landfills, manufacturing, sewage, toxic chemicals, water pollution and all others.30

Each of the first five paragraphs of each story was read to determine if one of six problem definitions applied to the issue. The six problem definitions included conflict, losses, needs, no problem, indeterminate situation and steps toward a solution.31 Thirty-three (33) news sources were included in the coding scheme (e.g., state-level cabinet member, local government officials and environmental groups).32 These were recoded into seven categories: advocates, experts, federal, industrial, local, state and anonymous. Press releases and press conferences were coded as separate source variables. The stories were coded by the authors of the study. Coding reliability coefficients (Scott’s Pi) for 71 of the 72 variables in the data set exceeded the 0.70 suggested by Riffe et al. as a minimum acceptable value for reliability outcomes.33

Binary logistic regression was used to assess the relationships among the variables because as a nonlinear technique, it is useful with yes- and no-type responses and other mutually exclusive categories.34 In logistic regression, it is the odds of each predictor variable’s association with the criterion variable that is of primary interest.35 For example, if press releases are associated with news stories about environmental policy, the odds explain how much more or less likely press releases are associated with policy stories than with non-policy stories. If the association were positive, the odds would be some value larger than 1.0. An odds of 2.0 would indicate that press releases were twice as likely to be associated with policy issues. If the association were negative, the odds would be less than 1.0. If the odds were 0.5, then press releases would be only half as likely to be associated with policy stories as with non-policy stories. If press releases were unrelated to policy, the odds would be O (zero) and the regression coefficient would be 1.0.


Environmental Issues

The issues of global warming, nuclear energy and old growth forests are not the sum and substance of local environmental news coverage (Table 1). Only two of the 841 stories in the analysis mentioned nuclear energy, and only six stories mentioned nuclear waste. These issues are included in the “energy” category (Table 1). Global warming did not make the list.

The three issues that appeared most frequently were water pollution (16.5 percent), sewage (16.2 percent) and landfills (12.0 percent). Just over one in ten (11.7 percent) of the stories examined land development, and air pollution was the focus of 8.4 percent of the stories. “Other issues,” 10.7 percent of the stories, included bridge construction, flood prevention, federal funding for new dams and argumentative behavior at township council meetings

Problem Definitions

The first five paragraphs of each story were read to determine whether the environmental issue had been defined as a problem or condition of discrepancy. Each of the five paragraphs was coded separately to determine if any of the six problem definition codes applied to any one or all of those paragraphs. In just over one-fourth of the lead paragraphs in the stories (n = 228; 27.1 percent), environmental issues were not defined as problems. Almost one in four (22.7 percent) defined the environmental problem as a conflict between industry, organizations, and local, state and federal government (Table 2).

One in five leads (19.1 percent) reported the issues as steps toward a solution to the problem, and 119 lead paragraphs (14.1 percent) defined the issues as a need for value. Just over one in 10 (11.3 percent) indicated a loss value on the part of individuals or society, and one in 20 (5.6 percent) lead paragraphs described environmental issues as indeterminate situations. When all five paragraphs of the stories were examined together, only 6.8 percent of the 841 did not include a single problem definition and almost one in ten stories 19.1 percent included at least five problem definitions (see Table 3).

News Sources

Table 4 provides a breakdown of the news story sources.36 One-third (n = 282; 33.5 percent) were local government officials. Advocates (n=145; 17.2 percent), predominantly representatives of interest groups and lawyers representing parties in a conflict, constituted the second largest group of sources followed by state government officials (n=121; 14.4 percent), the only other group to be represented in more than 100 stories.

Environmental Concern and News Values

Because environmental concern values have been assumed to play a critical role in the support and refutation of the management of environmental protection and because news values have been shown to be inherent in determining what is news, a logistic regression analysis was performed to determine which, if any, environmental concern and news values were associated with specific environmental issues, problem definitions, and news sources.37 Eleven logistic regression analyses are reported.38

Air Pollution

Air pollution stories were less than one-fifth (0.16 times) as likely to quote local sources as were stories about other issues. Press releases were more than twice as likely (2.45 times) to be mentioned in stories about air pollution issues as in other stories.

Prominent people or organizations were nearly twice as likely (1.92 times) to be mentioned in air pollution stories. When compared with stories about other issues, air pollution stories were nearly 14 times (13.83 times) as likely to report the DSP value of relaxing environmental regulations to achieve economic growth. On the other hand, air pollution stories were only a little more than onethird as likely (0.39 times) to mention the NEP value of concern for species and the planet when managing environmental problems.


Indeterminate problem situations were five times more likely (4.98 times) and a loss of value was four times more likely (4.14 times) to be mentioned in stories about burning, than in stories about other environmental issues.

Advocates were more than eight times more likely (8.40 times) to be in stories about burning than stories about other issues. Federal sources were nearly 16 times more likely (15.85 times), and local government sources were more than nine times more likely (9.15 times) to be named in stories about burning than in stories about other environmental issues. Press releases were almost three times more likely (2.84 times) to be mentioned. Prominent people or organizations were only one-fourth as likely (0.25 times) to be mentioned, but burning stories were more than twice as likely (2.36 times) to be judged timely.

Statements about relaxing environmental regulations to achieve economic growth (DSP) were more than five times as likely (5.61 times) to appear in stories about burning as in other stories. DSP values that economic and personal values are the most important considerations when managing environmental problems was only one-fifth as likely (0.15 times) to appear in such stories. The NEP value that nature is valuable in its own right was one-fifth (0.22 times) as likely to be mentioned in burning stories.


Anonymous sources were 10 times (10.05), federal sources nearly eight times (7.67), and industrial sources five times (5.16) more likely to be cited in energy than in other environmental issue stories. “Other” news values, which included unusualness, human interest, proximity, and newness, were nearly four times (3.90) more likely to be mentioned in energy-issue news stories than in others.

Land Development

Land development press releases were only about one-fourth as likely (0.24) to be quoted as they were in other issue stories. These stories were onetenth (0.10) as likely to mention the NEP value of the strict enforcement of existing environmental regulations as were other issue stories. In addition, references to the NEP value that nature is intrinsically valuable were nearly 14 times (13.84) as likely to be mentioned in land development stories.


“Other” news values39 were only about half as likely (0.49 times) to be mentioned in landfill stories when compared with other issue stories.

The DSP egoistic value and the NEP value of strict enforcement of regulations were nearly twice as likely to be mention in landfill news stories compared with other stories, 1.86 and 1.94 times, respectively. References to the NEP value that the welfare of society must be considered first in managing environmental problems was 1.72 times more likely to be mentioned in stories about landfill issues than in non-landfill stories.

Environmental Policy

Anonymous sources were more than 12 times (12.45) and “other” news values were nearly three times (2.83) as likely to be mentioned in stories covering environmental policy than in non-policy items. The NEP value of the importance of concern for living species and the planet itself when managing environmental problems was more than three times (3.42) as likely to be mentioned; the NEP value of considering the welfare of society in managing environmental problems was four times (3.98) more likely; and references to the NEP value of the intrinsic worth of nature itself were nearly three times (2.83) more likely to be mentioned in environmental policy stories than in items about other issues.


Local news sources were almost three times (2.70) more likely to be mentioned in non-manufacturing issue stories than in manufacturing stories.


Local sources were nearly three times as likely (2.93) to be mentioned in stories about sewage than in stories about other issues. Two NEP environmental values, references to the concern for living species and the planet itself when managing environmental problems and references to the intrinsic worth of nature, were less than one-third as likely (0.29) and half as likely (0.43) respectively to be mentioned in stories covering sewage when compared with other environmental issues.

Toxic Chemicals

In stories about toxic chemicals, state government sources were twice as likely (2.06 times) to be quoted as in stories about other environmental issues. Significance, the impact of the event on large numbers of people, and “other” news values, were more than twice as likely as likely to be mentioned in stories about toxic chemicals as in stories about other issues (2.11 and 2.34 respectively). The concern for living species and the planet itself when managing environmental problems (NEP) was more than seven times (7.18) as likely to be mentioned in stories about toxic chemical issues. In contrast, mentions of the intrinsic worth of nature itself were only about one-fourth as likely (0.28) to be mentioned, and the importance of considering the welfare of society in managing environmental problems was just one-tenth (0.12 times) as likely to be mentioned in stories about toxic chemicals when compared with other environmental issue stories.

Water Pollution

References to conflict were only about half as likely (0.47) to be found in water pollution stories, and federal sources were nearly twice as likely (1.73) to be quoted. Environmental value statements promoting economic and personal values (DSP) were only about half as likely (0.54) to be found, whereas the NEP value of requiring the strict enforcement of environmental regulations was about twice as likely (1.91) to be mentioned in water pollution stories when compared with other environmental issues.

Other Issues

The news value of significance in the story lead was only about half as likely (0.46 times), mentions of the worth of nature (NEP) were just under one third as likely (0.31), and references to stricter enforcement of environmental regulations (NEP) were only one-fifth (0.20 times) as likely to be mentioned in the “other” issues stories, that is stories about flood prevention and dam construction, when compared with the environmental issues ranging from air to water pollution.

Summary and Discussion

In the stories published in the 69 daily newspapers included in this study, the primary environmental issues that received the most coverage were sewage, water pollution, landfills and land development. These issues of the day-to-day environmental news agenda are not the sensational news topics of global warming and rain forest destruction. They do provide a snapshot of the key environmental issues that impact local communities.

Three-fourths (73 percent) of the news leads defined the issue as a problem. Just over one in five leads reported the problem in terms of a conflict, and almost half defined the issues as problems of losses of value, needs for value and steps towards solutions. Although the proportion of story paragraphs that did not contain a problem ranged from 27.1 to 36.4 percent across all five paragraphs, only 6.8 percent of the stories contained no problem definition.

These data provide support for multiple problem definitions within a single news story.40 The fact that the press defines problems primarily in terms of conflicts and losses instead of solutions suggests that readers are not being provided with adequate information about possible solutions to environmental problems.

The logistic regression suggests that local environmental news coverage is not necessarily formulaic in terms of story characteristics that present themselves across issues. Different story patterns emerge for different issues. Problem definitions do provide insights into the attributes of environmental news. However, when the individual sets of predictors are examined, the story sources and environmental and news values were better predictors of issues than were problem definitions. Clearly, journalistic routines do not translate into reporting all environmental issues in the same way.

Nearly 50 percent of the claimsmakers quoted in the stories were government sources or institutional sources.41 Nearly 20 percent of those sources were interest group advocates. In terms of their power to confer legitimacy on sources, the press placed greater emphasis on institutional sources than on community activists. For Pennsylvania communities, the primary definers of environmental problems appear to be government sources. However, that does not mean that the positions of interest group advocates were ignored. For stories about burning, advocates certainly played an important role in the news; however, advocates as sources were not related to any other issues.

What is especially troublesome is that scientific sources were quoted in fewer than 3 percent (23 attributions in 841 stories) of the stories. Given the serious impact of environmental problems on health and society and given that the press is the primary source of information about environmental issues for the public, expert sources should be quoted far more frequently in environmental news than appears to be the case.

The inclusion of environmental value claims in the analysis provided a perspective for better understanding the reporting of environmental issues. Stories about air pollution and burning were associated with the DSP value of the need to relax environmental regulations to achieve economic growth. The industry perspective of economic growth was a dominant value in air quality stories. In contrast, toxic chemical stories included references to the NEP value of concern for living species suggesting that toxic chemicals are clearly an issue that generates more concern at the community level than an issue like global warming. Further support for this perspective is that toxic chemical stories were characterized by the news value of significance.

The land development issue was not associated with the inherent value of nature itself, which makes sense given that from an economic perspective land that is developed is far more valuable to business, industry and investors than is undeveloped land. News coverage of landfill issues across the state were associated with conflicting DSP and NEP values. The landfill issue created conflict at the community level especially in western Pennsylvania communities where community residents opposed the construction of new landfills for the disposal of out-of-state garbage. Value claims emphasizing the importance of economic and personal values in managing environmental issues (DSP) as well as the NEP values of the importance of considering the welfare of society in managing environmental problems and more strictly enforcing environmental regulations were reported in landfill issue stories. The landfill issue stood out among the other issues because conflicting DSP and NEP values were reported in the same stories, whereas other issues were associated with one value perspective or the other. The landfill issue is controversial because landfills do provide communities with economic development; however, the long-term impact of landfills on communities resulting from leaching and contamination of the water supply were not supported with scientific evidence.

Although the energy issue appears on the national political agenda in terms of global warming and ozone depletion, the day-to-day news about energy was not associated with environmental value claims. Of all of the environmental issues included in the analysis, the issues that were associated with the most references to NEP values were environmental policy, the issue that was more than twice as likely to be associated with anonymous sources, and toxic chemicals. Policy stories included claims of concern for the welfare of society and the inherent value of nature as important considerations in the management of environmental problems.

The environmental values provide evidence about which groups control the way that issues are defined in the community press. For air pollution and burning, industry values dominated the coverage. This study provides insights into what readers can learn from environmental news and provides support that the values that environmental public opinion research has found in people’s beliefs about the environment are reflected in news coverage. Although the evidence suggests that environmental news is not necessarily formulaic and that issues are defined as problems, the coverage does not adequately focus on solutions to environmental problems. The reliance on government and industry sources that results in few expert and scientific sources is a serious concern raised by the findings in view of the technical nature and serious societal impact of environmental issues.


1. Pamela Shoemaker and Stephen Reese, Mediating the Message: Theories of Influences on Mass Media Content (New York: Longman, 1991).

2. Susanna Hornig, “Science Stories: Risk, Power and Perceived Emphasis,” Journalism Quarterly 67, no. 4 (winter 1990): 767-776; Paul Slovic, “Perception of Risk,” Science (17 April 1987): 280285; Paul Slovic, “Perception of Risk,” Science (17 April 1987): 280-285; Eleanor Singer and Phyllis Endreny, “Reporting Hazards: Their Benefits and Costs,” Journal of Communication 37, no. 3 (summer 1987): 10-26.

3. Gaye Tuchman, Making News (New York: Free Press, 1978), 2.

4. Issues included air pollution, burning, energy, land development, landfills, environmental policy, sewage, toxic chemicals, water pollution, manufacturing, and “other topics.”

5. Malcolm Spector and John I. Kitsuse, Constructing Social Problems. (Menlo Park, CA: Cummings, 1977).

6. Herbert Blumer, “Social Problems as Collective Behavior,” Social Problems 18, no. 3 (August 1971): 298-306.

7. Robert Griffin, Sharon Dunwoody, and Christine Gehrmann, “The Effects of Community Pluralism on Press Coverage of Health Risks from Local Environmental Contamination,” Risk Analysis 15, no. 15 (June 1995): 449-458.

8. Erin E. Robinson, “Community Frame Analysis in Love Canal: Understanding Messages in a Contaminated Community,” Sociological Spectrum 22, no. 2 (April/June 2002):139-169.

9. Alex S. Edelstein, “New Variables for the Study of Public Opinion about Social Problems,” (paper presented to the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, San Francisco, 1984); Alex S. Edelstein, Youichi Ito, and Hans Mathias Kepplinger, Communication and Culture: A Comparative Approach (New York: Longman, 1989).

10. Blumer, “Social Problems.”

11. Edelstein, Ito, and Kepplinger, Communication and Culture;}. Vernonjensen, “Metaphorical Constructs for the Problem-Solving Process,” The Journal of Creative Behavior 9, no. 2 (second quarter, 1975): 113-124; “A Heuristic for the Analysis of the Nature and Extent of a Problem,” The Journal of Creative Behavior 12, no. 3 (third quarter 1978): 168-180.

12. John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems, (New York: Henry Holt, 1927).

13. Edelstein et al., Communication and Culture.

14. Edelstein et al., Communication and Culture, 140-141.

15. Craig Trumbo, “Constructing Climate Change: Claims and Frames in US Newspaper Coverage of an Environmental Issue” Public Understanding of Science 5, no. 3 (Ju;y 1996): 269-283.

16. Edelstein et al., Communication and Culture. Edelstein’s study analyzed each story headline and lead paragraph. Strong correlations were found for the problematic situations between headlines and leads.

17. Trumbo, “Constructing Climate Change.”

18. Tuchman, Making News.

19. Herbert Gans, Deciding What’s News (New York: Random House, 1979).

20. Leon V. Sigal, Reporters and Officials: The Organization and Politics ofNeivsmaking (Lexington, MA: Heath, 1973); Jane D. Brown, Carl R. Bybee, Stanley T. Wearden, and Dulcie M. Straughn, “Invisible Power: Newspaper News Sources and the Limits of Diversity,” Journalism Quarterly 64, no. 1 (spring 1987): 45-54; John Soloski, “Sources and Channels of Local News,” Journalism Quarterly 66, no.4 (winter 1989): 864-870.

21. Leon V. Sigal, Reporters and Officials.

22. Trumbo, “Constructing Climate Change.”

23. Dan Berkowitz and Douglas W. Beach, “News Sources and News Content: The Effect of Routine News, Conflicts, and Proximity,” Journalism Quarterly 70, no. 1 (spring 1993): 4-12.

24. Riley E. Dunlap and K. Van liere, “Commitment to the Dominant Social Paradigm and Concern for Environmental Quality,” Social Science Quarterly 65, no. 4 (December 1984): 1013-1028.

25. Lester W. Milbrath, “Environmental Beliefs and Values,” in Political Psychology, ed. M. G. Hermann (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1986), 97-138.

26. The DSP values mcluded: 1) economic growth is more important than environmental protection; 2) pollution laws are too strict; 3) environmental regulations must be relaxed to achieve economic growth; 4) economic and personal values are the most important values to consider in managing pollution; 5) pollution control has created unfair burdens on industry; and 6) jobs and employment should come before the environment. The NEP values included: 1) species and the planet must be considered first when managing environmental problems and issues; 2) nature and wilderness are valuable in their own right; 3) environmental regulations must be strictly enforced; 4) the welfare of society must be considered first in managing environmental problems; 5) polluters must be punished by fines and imprisonment; 6) rapid economic growth produces more problems than benefits; and 7) communities should strive to be harmonious with nature.

27. Dennis L. Wilcox and Lawrence Nolte, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper Collins, 1995); Kerry Tucker, Doris Derelian, and Donna Rounder, Public Relations Writing: An Issue-Driven Behavioral Approach, Slid ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997); Camilla Gant and John Dimmick, “Making Local News: A Holistic Analysis of Sources, Selection Criteria, and Topics,” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 77, no.3 (autumn 2000): 628-638; Dennis M. Corrigan, “Value Coding Consensus in Front Page News Leads,” Journalism Quarterly 67, no. 4 (winter 1990): 653-662; Keith Shelton, “Timeliness in the News: Television vs. Newspapers,” Journalism Quarterly 55, no. 2 (summer 1978): 348-350; Naiim Badii and Walter Ward, “The Nature of News in Four Dimensions,” journalism Quarterly 57, no. 2 (spring 1980): 243-348.

28. Burrelle’s Media Directory, Daily Newspapers. (Livingston, NJ: Burrelle’s Information Services, 1999), 39-574.

29. Edelstein, “New Variables for the Study.”

30. Subtopics in the 11 environmental issue categories included: Air pollution: acid rain, ammonia gas, auto emissions, global warming, ozone depletion, radon, and manufacturing emissions. Burning: burning, natural gas, burning tires, burning wood, forest/brush fires, incinerators, and chemical tank fires. Energy: nuclear energy, nuclear waste and radiation, natural gas, coal, oil, and solar power. Environmental policy: references to environmental policies and environmental education programs. Land development: deforestation, population increases, undeveloped land, sustainable development, opposition to urbanization of farm land, demand for new housing/new residential patterns, urban sprawl, preservation of parks, open spaces, and wetlands. Landfill: opposition to new construction, need for new construction, out-of-state trash, garbage, hazardous waste, illegal dumping, packaging, recycling, and tire dumps. Manufacturing: toxic byproducts of electronics and rubber manufacturing, mining (subsidence and destruction of land). Sewage: need for new treatment plants and new or replacement lines, cost sharing with state/federal governments, pollution of rivers and streams, and well water contamination. Toxic chemicals: Spill subtopics include benzene, dioxin, PCBs, heave metals (mercury, lead), pesticides. Water pollution: need for new water sources, water authority issues, chlorination, floridation, fish kills, manure runoff from large-animal operations, fertilizer runoff, water shed, and water shortage.

31. Edelstein et al., Communication and Culture, 74. No problematic situation indicates that information in the story offers no reference to a problem. Loss of value is something valued or once possessed has been lost or destroyed. Need for value refers to a lack, need, want, wish, or desire for some action, service, or entity that does not exist. Social conflict includes actual conflicts, anticipations of conflict, or conflicts that are imagined among individuals, organizations, businesses, or government agencies. An indeterminate sitiiuiion is the inability Lo define, determine, or discover a course for an action as defined by the situation. Steps toward n solution do riot necessarily represent a total solution but describe a goal state or orientation that represents responsiveness to new situations.

32. The 33 source categories included: federal sources (EPA; other federal agencies); U.S. Senators or House Representatives; U.S. Cabinet members; state-level Cabinet members; U.S. President or Vice President; state government office or agency; state senators or house representatives; county government officials; local governmental officials; general government references (broad references to officials, authorities, inspectors); industry officials and association representatives; workers and union members; advocacy/environmental/citizen and lobbying groups; citizens/bystanders/individuals; government press secretary; university scientist/expert; government scientist/expert; industry scientist/expert; farmer; victim; potential victim; unattributed (no source for statement in quotes); mixed attribution; other; attorney for person/party in dispute; state governor; state employees; U.N. representative or another country; foreign leader/president; WHO/international NGO representative; unidentified/anonymous; and public relations spokesperson.

33. Daniel Riffe, Stephen Lacy, and Frederick G. Fico, Analyzing Media Messages: Using Quantitative Content Analysis in Research (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998). The mean agreement for the 71 variables was 0.9859, and the mean Pi was 0.9815. For the 23 variables included in this analysis, the mean coding agreement score was 0.9854 and the mean Pi was 0.9727.

34. Marija J. Norusis, “Logistic Regression Analysis,” SPSS Advanced Statistics 6.1 (Chicago: SPSS, 1994); David W. Hosmer, Jr. and Stanley Lemeshow, Applied Logistic Regression (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1989); Daniel A. Powers and Yu Xie, Statistical Methods for Categorical Data Analysis (San Diego: Academic Press, 2000).

35. Hosmer and Lemeshow, Applied Logistic Regression.

36. Recodes Used: Advocates (Categories 13, 14, 19-21, 25): Advocates, Individual citizens, Farmer, Victim, Potential victim, Attorney for party in dispute. Experts (Categories 16, 17): University scientist, Government scientist. Federal officials (Categories 1, 2, 3, 5): Federal government officials/employees, U.S. Congressmen, U.S. Cabinet, President or Vice President. Industry representatives (Categories 11,12,18): Industry/ association officials, Workers and union officials, Industry scientists. International sources (Categories 28,29,30): UN representative. Foreign leader/ president, WHO/ international NGO. Local officials (Categories 8,9,10): County government, Local government, Government boards, commissions, etc. PR Spokespersons (Categories 15,33): Government press secretary, PR spokespersons. State officials (Categories 4,6,7,26,27): State cabinet, State officials, State legislators, Governor, State employees such as geologists, etc. Anonymous (Categories 22, 23, 24, 32): Anonymous, Mixed attributions, Other, Unidentified persons.

37. Due to missing data, 701 of the 841 news stories were included.

38. see the authors for further information about regressions.

39. “Other” news values included unusualness, human interest, proximity, and newness.

40. Edelstein et al., Communication and Culture.

41. Tuchman, Making News.

Major is an associate professor and Atwood is an adjunct research professor. Both are in the College of Communications at Pennsylvania State University. Support for this research was provided by the College of Communications and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Copyright Newspaper Research Journal, Department of Journalism, University of Memphis Summer 2004

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