Fire issues and communication by the media
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): C. Smith
Coordinator(s): J. K. Brown; R. W. Mutch; C. W. Weatherspoon; R. H. Wakimoto
Publication Year: 1995

Cataloging Information

  • education
  • fire case histories
  • fire management
  • fire size
  • land management
  • public information
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 47937
Tall Timbers Record Number: 23965
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: A13.88:INT-320
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Examination of 320 stories about wildfire published since 1988 suggests that journalists did not learn from the mistakes they made reporting the Yellowstone fires. The conventions of journalism, which value drama over explanation, suggest that wildfires and other natural catastrophes will often be reported in apocalyptic terms rather than as the predictable outcomes of natural force. Studies of how journalists reported five major stories suggest five factors that determine how wildfires are reported: (1) source enterprise, (2) cultural resonance, (3) issue salience, (4) newness, and (5) the degree to which the setting is rural or urban. Because of these criteria, news organizations sometimes do a poor job of providing the kinds of information needed by news consumers to reach intelligent conclusions about how public lands should be managed.

Smith, C. 1995. Fire issues and communication by the media, in Brown, J. K., Mutch, R. W., Spoon, C. W., and Wakimoto, R. H., Proceedings: symposium on fire in wilderness and park management. Missoula, MT. USDA Forest Service, Internountain Research Station,Ogden, UT. p. 65-69,General Technical Report INT-GTR-320.