|Abstract||This paper examines the ways residents in the Grampians area in the Australian state of Victoria used their local and their state and national based media before, during and after the 2006 bushfires (wildfires). The researchers were particularly concerned to understand how residents evaluated media sources as trustworthy and credible in relation to bushfire warnings and information about the fires delivered in the media.
Analysis of data derived from two separate focus group sessions conducted by the researchers reveals four main themes. (1) The media are perceived as part of a broader information gathering process. (2) Local knowledge is the most important aspect in broadcast information. (3) Members of small communities can feel disenfranchised and resentful of the media when media coverage focuses on larger towns, and (4) the effects of media reporting, including specific warnings, are both immediate and long lasting.
The paper explores some of the tensions that result from the ways rural residents use and distinguish between local/regional and metropolitan and out-of-state bushfire information; and it encourages better use of the local/regional media to increase community safety and awareness in relation to bushfire mitigation, preparedness and crisis management issues before, during and after the fires. It is suggested that risk communications professionals need to understand that when mediated risk-related communications are provided, a key evaluative criterion is whether or not those media and the messages represent and reflect local knowledge. |