Iowa news media coverage of wetland and riparian area
Articles in the Des Moines Register 1992-1996
By Paul F. Anderson and Kevin M. Lyles
To better understand coverage of wetland and riparian area issues in
the news media, a study was completed of Des Moines Register articles published
from January 1, 1992 through December 31, 1996. Results of the empirical
study included four major findings.
- First, study results showed a general decline in number of relevant
articles and hits per year from 1992 to 1996. The number of relevant articles
declined from 177 in 1992 to 78 in 1996, a decrease of approximately 56
- Second, there was a major peak in number of relevant articles in 1993.
The number of relevant articles in 1993 (300 articles) was approximately
184 percent of the mean (163 articles) for the five-year period. Analysis
of the data showed that the primary reason for the peak in 1993 was the
Midwest flood which occurred in last half of 1993.
- Third, among five issue themes, the data showed that education and
outreach issues had the fewest hits (211), approximately 8 percent of the
total number of hits and 26 percent of the articles. This suggested that
there were relatively few newsworthy education and outreach programs during
the study period. Perhaps these results were an indicator of the needs
for more education and outreach or that education and outreach activities
were less newsworthy than other topics.
- Fourth, among the five issue themes, the data showed that functions
and values issues had the most hits (793), approximately 29 percent of
the total number of hits and 97 percent of the articles. Perhaps these
results were an indicator of the high concern among the public, public
officials, or the media for wetland and riparian area functions and values.
It was also possible that functions and values topics were more newsworthy
than other topics.
Based on the research process, data, results, and limitations, the following
recommendations would help produce results that are even more useful than
those from this initial research effort:
- Review additional literature on content analysis of mass media
- Add data from more years of Des Moines Register articles
- Add data from newspapers other than the Des Moines Register
- Add data from news media other than newspapers
- Analyze the data using categories other than issue themes
- Review and adjust keyword lists to better represent issues
- Develop custom software that allows the use of multiple-word keyword
- Identify additional explanatory variables and measure statistical correlation
- Compare findings of content analysis on flooding with those from similar
studies in the literature.
- Incorporate the results of media evaluation to help implement the goals
of the Conservation Plan that relate to education and outreach (Issue Theme
- Continue to track and evaluate media coverage to help implement goals
of the Conservation Plan that relate to monitoring and evaluation (Issue
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Last update: 18 December 97