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Media Discourse and the Social Construction of Risk

Robert A. Stallings
Social Problems
Vol. 37, No. 1 (Feb., 1990), pp. 80-95
DOI: 10.2307/800796
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800796
Page Count: 16
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Media Discourse and the Social Construction of Risk
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Abstract

A sociological approach to the study of risk assumes that risk and safety exist in and through social organization rather than as objective conditions that individuals simply perceive either more or less accurately. A research agenda based on this assumption must identify who influences the social construction of risk and how they do so. This paper focuses on media discourse in the aftermath of a dramatic event. It deals with news accounts of a bridge collapse and of the apparent deterioration of the nation's bridges contained in articles published in the national edition of the New York Times. I identify and compare causes of the problematic condition of bridges advanced by experts and other news sources with causes that were conspicuously absent from these news accounts to suggest why some conceptions of risk but not others enter into public discourse.

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