Siting a Hazardous Waste Incinerator: Newspaper Risk Communication and Public Opinion Analysis.

Publication Title

Newspaper Research Journal

Publication Date

Fall 1992

Document Type



siting, hazardous waste incinerator, risk communication, public opinion analysis


Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Marketing | Other Business


This article presents information on a study related to a local newspaper's information function and corresponding public information/attitudinal levels associated with a highly controversial hazardous waste research facility-siting attempt. The study examined types of information that were presented to the public, and how they were presented. In addition, the study examined the public's information levels and attitudes about the proposed incinerator. Based upon a content analysis of the available newspaper coverage, it is clear that the citizens of Tuscaloosa County did not receive enough informed coverage of the issue to make an informed decision about the desirability of the proposed project. Elements, which have been identified as good risk communication reporting procedures, were absent. This is supported by survey research data that show low information levels about hazardous waste properties, hazardous waste disposal methods and the university's involvement with the project. The Tuscaloosa News committed the same risk communication errors that have been found elsewhere. The newspaper provided little background information about hazardous waste, hazardous waste disposal, risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis. The majority of background information provided came from university sources; there was an absence of basic information such as fundamental definitions and explanations; and no risk probability statement was included.