Publication Details

Hurlimann, A. & Dolnicar, S. (2012). Newspaper coverage of water issues in Australia. Water Research, 46 (19), 6497-6507.


The media has been found to have an impact on public debate, public opinion, and public policy agendas. Public debate, and public opinion about water conservation and water supply management projects matter because they can influence specific outcomes. For example, public opinion can potentially lead to positive behaviour, like increased water conservation, or potentially negative behaviours such as public opposition to developments such as dams or water recycling plants, which may be necessary under changing climatic conditions. It is therefore critical to understand how the media reports on water-related topics. Results from a content analysis of 1253 newspaper articles published in Australia in 2008 indicate that water-related reports are characterised by lack of inclusion of views held by various stakeholders, a low level of support of statements with scientific evidence, a low level of impartiality in the sense of reporting on opposing views and a relatively high level of hedging, meaning that the author signals that there is some uncertainly about the reported information. In sum these tendencies could theoretically culminate to work against public engagement in water issues and undermine the public's understanding of and confidence in water management measures. Proactive measures of media management are recommended.

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