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Grief Reporting: A Print Media Content Analysis of the Gander, Newfoundland Air Disaster

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Master's thesis, 13 Dec 1985-5 Dec 1986

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When reporting grief, the media are often regarded as an insensitive monolith. This study of grief reporting shows that print media reports of a shocked, angry and saddened society in the aftermath of a disaster correspond with predictable human responses and are not necessarily the sensationalized product of an adversarial press. The study examined 117 news stories reporting the December 12, 1985 crash of a DC-8 jetliner in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. News stories printed in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post were compared to the five-stage human grief response observed by medical practitioners and sociologists shock to anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance. The analysis revealed a reporting pattern similar to the grief response. All five stages were observed and appeared progressively. Of greatest significance was the limited appearance of stage five, acceptance. Although observed in each newspaper at various times, news stories reporting resolution to the loss were minuscule in comparison to earlier stories, which emphasized the shocking aspects of the catastrophe and the intense grieving that followed. The failure to focus on resolution may, in fact, be the source of the medias poor reputation in regard to grief reporting. At a time when society is resolving its loss, the media typically highlight the next problem. The media would benefit the reader if, in addition to highlighting new crises, they more effectively reported resolve to previous ones.

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  • Information Science
  • Psychology

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