The Role of Mass Media in the Coverage of “New” Ecological Catastrophes: narratives and risks

Author: Anastasiia E. Perova

Communicology. 2017. Vol.5. No.5
Perova Anastasiia Evgenievna, PhD student at the Department of Sociology, Faculty of International Journalism, Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; e-mail:

Abstract. The article represent a sociological analysis of the representation in the mass media of manifestations and consequences of the “new” catastrophism, as well as its narratives. Among the examples of this phenomenon one could name global warming, extreme weather events, “dead” land and water, the depletion of planet resources, highly mobile diseases, etc. The term “neocatastrophism” introduced by British sociologist J. Urry, is relatively recent for sociology and not too common. In the recent years, however, a lot of major sociologists have started to reflect upon the issues of the relationship between the society and nature and a drastic change in it.
The article presents an analysis of the role that the mass media play as the sources of information about “new” catastrophes. The latter are not just an attractive image in its epicism and immensity for an average man, and for the media. The mediated disaster narrative sometimes is used for political purposes; it is also socially significant in a way that it instills fear and connects people all over the world with a sense of community and shared tragedy. The three main “vectors” of “new” catastrophes are: climate change, anthropogenic changes of the planet and virus epidemics. Here one can note the existence of conflicting, competing and suppressed narratives. The examples of “new” disasters can reveal that they are also capable of evolving in time and of transformation. In the case of highly mobile diseases, the new pandemics of the 21st century, such as “swine” and “avian” flu, not only the critical approach in the perception of information in the midst of general panic sentiments becomes significant, but also the trust in certain sources. The specifics of risk communication play a particular role, that is the episodically city and short-term monitoring of a catastrophe, the absence of a clearly expressed analysis, and information bias – alongside a very high speed of message publication and borrowing materials from social networks. Neocatastrophe narratives are embedded into the global apocalyptic meta-narrative, with continuity as its feature.

Keywords: neocatastrophism, mass media, risk society, mediated disaster narrative, risk communications, environmental sociology, sociology of disaster

Text: PDF

For citation: Perova A. E. The Role of Mass Media in the Coverage of “New” Ecological Catastrophes: narratives and risks. Communicology (Russia). Vol. 5. No. 5. P. 48-58
DOI 10.21453 / 2311-3065-2017-5-5-48-58

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