The role of the media in the amplification of a contested health risk: Rubber granulate on sport fields

Marion de Vries, Liesbeth Claassen, Margreet Te Wierik, Enny Das, Marcel Mennen, Aura Timen, Danielle Timmermans

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This study aims to increase insights into the potential role of the media in the amplification and attenuation of modern risks in society, by studying the dynamics and contents of the newspaper coverage about the potential health risk posed by rubber granulate in the Netherlands. We thematically analysed 153 national newspaper articles about the risks posed by rubber granulate between September 2016 and February 2017. Our results suggest that newspaper coverage might have contributed to heightened public risk perceptions by presenting the negligible health risk as uncertain, focusing on controversy between authorities and experts, describing responses such as concerns, commotion, and adopted risk mitigation measures by members of the public, and by providing insufficient contextualization on whether hazardous substances in rubber granulate pose a threat to health. The risks posed by rubber granulate is one of the many modern risks that has become subject to heated and mediated public discussions. Our results provide in-depth insights into important content elements in media coverage during such discussions and the impact of these elements on public perceptions. Public health institutes and other authorities might be able to mitigate the amplification of risks through media coverage by means of appropriate preparedness and response.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRisk Analysis
Early online date6 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 May 2021

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