Disaster communication on the internet: A focus on mobilizing information

Andrea Tanner, Daniela B. Friedman, Alexis Koskan, Daphney Barr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


While local television news is the most cited source for seeking news and information, many individuals also report finding their news from the Internet. During a disaster, people need access to accurate information and clear, specific instructions to help them act appropriately. Therefore, it is important to assess the volume and scope of emergency information being disseminated on local television news websites. This study analyzed the content of 293 emergency-related stories on 119 local television news websites. Mobilizing information (MI), information found in news that can cue people to act on preexisting attitudes, also was explored. Results showed that emergency information was present on nearly all (96%) of the sites examined. A majority of news stories focused on natural disasters (52%) and most frequently discussed multiple disasters (e.g., hurricanes and pandemics). Mobilizing information was present in fewer than half of the stories (44%); stories were more likely to contain identificational MI than either locational or tactical MI (p<.05). There were also significant differences in type of MI present according to U.S. region. More stories by wire and syndicated services included MI (p<0.05). Implications for future research on inclusion of MI in general health and emergency stories are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-755
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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