Shifting the Blame: Storm and Wildfire Dramatic Images in American News Media

Aris Munandar(1*), Amin Basuki(2)

(1) Department of Intercultural Studies, Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia
(2) Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia
(*) Corresponding Author


Some media frames might be likely to seek to evoke a certain sentiment, and that natural disaster coverage by the media focuses on the current impact of disasters. In their coverage, American news media use polar sentiment words to create bleeding images of natural disasters, potentially counter-productive to the wisdom of dealing with the natural disaster. Identifying the sentiment words that lead to a misperception of natural disasters can help journalists adopt the wisdom that natural disasters are not a human enemy. The corpus-assisted discourse studies (CADS) reported in this article investigates the American media's issues for dramatic reporting and the polar sentiment words utilized in the framing. The corpus is built from 100 news articles reporting wildfires and storms by ten major online American news media published from January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2020. It uses AntConc to generate word-list and word-link from which it identifies the dominant issues. Subsequently, it compares the AntConc word-list with A List of Sentiment Words to reveal the tones and dramatic imaging. The findings show that the dominant issues in storm reporting are description, impact, and prediction, while wildfire reporting are cause, impact, action, and prediction. The negative polar words produce dramatic images of storm as a violent beast and wildfire as a vengeful invader. Such description is provocative to blaming natural disasters as a cause of human suffering rather than improving our behaviors to reduce the suffering. Thus, it is counter-productive to acquiring wisdom for dealing with natural disasters.


Emotive reporting; natural disasters; dramatic image, blame shifting; polar sentiment words

Full Text:



Anthony, L. (2019). Antconc 3.5.8. Laurence Anthony. https://www.laurenceanthony. net/software/antconc/

Albrecht, F. (2021). Natural hazards as political events: Framing and politicisation of floods in the United Kingdom. Environmental Hazards, 1-19.

Arnold, M. D. (1975). Floods as Manmade Disasters. Environmental Conservation, 2(4), 257–263.

Cissel, M. (2012). Media Framing. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 67–77.

Cockburn, P. (2011). Catastrophe on camera: Why media coverage of natural disasters is flawed. Independent. https://www. flawed-2189032.html

de Brito, R.P., de Souza Miguel, P.L ., & Pereirab, S.C.F. (2020). Climate risk perception and media framing. RAUSP Management Journal, 55(2), 247-262. https://

Earth Journalism Network. (n.d.). Reporting on Disasters | Earth Journalism Network. Earth Journalism Network. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from

Grant, S., Tamason, C.C., & Jensen, P.K.M. (2015).Climatization : A critical perspective of framing disasters as climate change events. Climate Risk Management, 10, 27-34.

Hoon, L.L, Shen, N.K., & Mei, T.C. (2015). News Frame of Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Coverage: A Comparative Study of Philippines Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal News Sites. The Asian Conference on Media & Mass Communication 2015 Official Conference Proceedings. http://papers. mediasia2015/MediAsia2015_12043.pdf

Horsley, J. S. (2016). Media Framing Of Disasters: Implications For Disaster Response Communicators. In A. Schwarz, M. W. Seeger, & C. Auer (Eds.), The Handbook Of International Crisis Communication Research (pp. 155–164). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Ch15

Houston, J. B., Pfefferbaum, B., & Rosenholtz, C. E. (2012). Disaster News: Framing and Frame Changing in Coverage of Major U.S. Natural Disasters, 2000–2010. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 89(4), 606–623.

Hu, M., & Liu, B. (2004). Proceeding of the ACM- SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD-2004). Mining and Summarizing Customer Reviews.

Illner, P., & Holm, I. W. (2016). Making sense of disaster: the cultural studies of disaster". In O. Rubin, R. Dahlberg, & M. T. Vendels (Eds.), Disaster Research: Multidisciplinary and international perspectives (pp. 51–65). Routledge.

Imperial, J. M., Orosco, J., Mazo, S. M., Maceda, L. L., Roxas, N.O.R.E. (2018). A Filipino-English disaster sentiment polarity lexicon, Proceeding. Conference: The Asian Association for Lexicography (AsiaLex). https://www.researchgate. net/publication/328655222_A_Filipino- English_disaster_sentiment_polarity_ lexicon

Joye, S. (2010). News discourses on distant suffering: a Critical Discourse Analysis of the 2003 SARS outbreak. Discourse & Society, 21(5), 586–601. https://www.jstor. org/stable/42889696

Joye, S. (2015). Domesticating distant suffering: How can news media discursively invite the audience to care? The International Communication Gazette, 77(7), 682–694.

Kövecses, Z. (2010). Metaphor and Culture. Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, 2(2), 197–220.

Kuttschreuter, M., Gutteling, J. M., & de Hond, M. (2011). Framing and tone-of-voice of disaster media coverage: The aftermath of the Enschede fireworks disaster in the Netherlands. Health, Risk & Society, 13(3), 201–220.

Munandar, A. (2019). Death-related expressions in Javanese angkating layon speech and English eulogy. Internation Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8(3), 515–524. https://

NASA. (2020). NASA Covers Wildfires Using Many Sources. NASA. index.html

Nasa Science. (2019). How Do Hurricanes Form? Nasa Science.

NPS. (2020). Wildfire Causes and Evaluations.


Pantti, M. (2019). Crisis and Disaster Coverage. In T. P. Vos & F. Hanusch (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Journalism Studies. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. https://

Parida, D., Moses, S., & Rahaman, K. R. (2021). Analysing media framing of c yc lone A m phan: Im plic atio ns fo r risk communication and disaster preparedness. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 59, 102272. https://

Partington, A., Duguid, A., & Taylor, C. (2013).Patterns and meanings in discourse. Studies in Corpus Linguistics, 55. https://

Rathje, S. (2017). The power of framing: It's not what you say, it's how you say it. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian. com/science/head-quarters/2017/jul/20/ the-power-of-framing-its-not-what-you- say-its-how-you-say-it

Smith, A. B. (2021). US billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in historical context. Climate.Gov. news-features/blogs/beyond-data/2020- us-billion-dollar-weather-and-climate- disasters-historical

The Guardian. (2019). The US won't be prepared for the next natural disaster. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian. com/world/2019/jan/18/natural-disaster- preparation-fema-hurricanes

The New York Times. (2020). California Wildfires explained: Why Does California Have So Many Wildfires? The New York Times. does-california-have-wildfires.html

The Saffir-Simpson Team. (2019). "Saffir- Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale." National Hurricane Center and Central Pasific Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Washington Post. (2019). Mapping America's w icke d we athe r and de adly dis as te r s . The Washington Post. https://www. national/mapping-disasters/

Tomonto, M. (2019). A Calamitous Imagination:Disaster Images, Fake News, and Challenges to Journalistic Objectivity. MA Thesis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. record/304586/files/GRI-2019-24234.pdf


Article Metrics

Abstract views : 2744 | views : 3281


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Jurnal Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.








  View My Stats