How Chemical Pollution Becomes a Social Problem. Risk Communication and Assessment through Regional Newspapers During the Management of PCB Pollutions of the Rhône River (France)

Abstract : The case study of the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) pollutions of the Rhône River (France) offers the possibility of studying criteria for the construction of social problems that result from chemical pollution (2005-2010). We investigated the dynamics of competition that create and define pollution as a social problem and entail its decline. News outlets are crucial for determining how an environmental issue emerges locally or nationally; this study used newspapers to highlight the potential of new outlets as a data source to analyze discourse variability, science-policy-media connections and the hydrosphere. Media coverage was based on a content analysis and textual data analysis of 75 articles. Analytical frameworks such as the Downs Model and the Public Arena Model (Hilgartner and Bosk, 1988) that consider time and stakeholders were tested to determine how human alteration of the hydrosphere can become a social problem and to analyze different communication strategies held by stakeholders. In terms of management, we described the temporal dynamics of the social problem based on the case study and considered an explanation of the selections. We considered the organization of particular stakeholders who define the social problem from its beginning to end by focusing on their discourses, relationships, decision-making and political choices, and scientific studies. Despite some biases, newspapers are useful for retrospectively evaluating the emergence of a social problem in the public arena by describing it through discourse and then understanding the temporal patterns of information. Despite uncertainties and information flow, decisions are made and science is translated to the public.
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Emeline Comby, Yves-François Le Lay, Hervé Piégay. How Chemical Pollution Becomes a Social Problem. Risk Communication and Assessment through Regional Newspapers During the Management of PCB Pollutions of the Rhône River (France). Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2014, 482-483, pp.100-115. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.02.137⟩. ⟨halshs-00961239⟩

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