A New York or Pennsylvania state of mind: Social representations of gas development in the Marcellus Shale

Darrick Evensen, Christopher Clarke, Richard Stedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

What first comes to mind when you think of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region? The information and ideas we hold about shale gas development can strongly influence our discussion of this issue, the impacts we associate with it, and the types of regulation we view as appropriate. Our knowledge and beliefs are based in part on social representations—common sense understandings of complex, often scientific, phenomena, generated in the public sphere and reliant on the history, culture, and social structure of the context in which they emerge. In this article, we examine social representations of environmental, economic, and social impacts of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale, as reported by major regional newspapers. We conducted a content analysis of newspaper coverage in two newspapers in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and two in the southern tier of New York from 2007 to 2011, with a total sample of 1,037 articles. Effects on water quality were by far the most prevalent environmental representation in each newspaper. Economic representations focused on jobs, leases, and royalties, but varied substantially across geographical contexts. Representations of social impacts were relatively rare in each media outlet. We also interviewed the journalists who wrote the most articles on shale gas development at each newspaper. Their perspectives provide some explanations for why certain impacts were mentioned more frequently than others, and for differences between newspapers. We conclude with implications for communicating about impacts associated with shale gas development, and for regulating development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-77
JournalJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Volume4
Issue number1
Early online date12 Nov 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Keywords

  • content analysis
  • hydraulic fracturing
  • shale gas
  • mass media
  • environmental
  • economic
  • social impacts

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