A JFSP Fire Science Exchange Network
Bringing People Together & Sharing Knowledge in the Northern Rockies

Wildfire in the news media: an intersectional critical frame analysis

Author(s): Heidi M. Walker, Maureen G. Reed, Amber J. Fletcher
Year Published: 2020

The unprecedented 2015 wildfire season in northern Saskatchewan, Canada resulted in the largest evacuation in the province's history. The depiction of such environmental hazards in the news media is one mechanism that can, even inadvertently, reinforce historical and contemporary social inequalities through its discursive construction of the event and actors involved. We modified and applied a critical frame analysis (CFA) to explicitly reveal how intersecting social identity attributes and associated power relations emerged in media narratives of the Saskatchewan wildfire event, as well as how dominant narratives were challenged. Findings derived from two local and two national news sources revealed that mainstream media largely reflected and reinforced a normative characterization of wildfire response and planning that is highly gendered and exclusionary. Specifically, this characterization constructed intersecting dualisms, giving agency to men and historically male-dominated organizations and casting women, as well as northern and Indigenous communities, as passive residents in need of protection. Our application of the framework also revealed how dominant narratives were challenged through alternative discourses that recognized the agency of community members. A key contribution of the CFA framework, when combined with an intersectional lens, is its ability to draw attention to the ways in which identity attributes (e.g., gender, race) and associated power relations (e.g., patriarchy, racism, colonialism) work together, and to thereby generate insights that can help redefine policy problems and ultimately, more effectively address the social dimensions of environmental hazards.

Citation: Walker, Heidi M.; Reed, Maureen G.; Fletcher, Amber J. 2020. Wildfire in the news media: an intersectional critical frame analysis. Geoforum 114:128-137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2020.06.008
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 21800
FRAMES RCS number: 61436
Record updated: Sep 3, 2020