Environment, Science, Media

Media and ‘Undone Science’ in West Virginia’s Elk River Chemical Spill (2017)

Environmental SociologyHow does media coverage matter for environmental conflicts? During environmental and technological disasters, affected residents frequently come into conflict with public officials and scientific experts over the health risks of environmental exposure. Yet public concerns are often dismissed as the result of anxiety and ignorance. As a result, scientific studies rarely address residents’ most pressing questions and concerns. Can the media help change this? In this study of the 2014 chemical spill in West Virginia, I find that the local print media challenged official risk assessments in a way that influenced the direction of research on the chemical contaminant. Some of the research allowed for greater input and involvement from local residents, helping to democratize the scientific process.

Data & Methods: Qualitative analysis of local print media and scientific studies of the chemical contaminant.

Bray, Laura A. 2017. “Media and ‘Undone Science’ in West Virginia’s Elk River Chemical Spill.Environmental Sociology 3(4):359-69. [Fifty free downloads of the article available here.]