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Panic! Looting! : the prevalence of disaster mythology on Fox News Online and CNN Online when reporting on Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

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The aim of this research project was to establish whether or not the known sociological concept of disaster myths were used by CNN and FOX in their online coverage of 2017 Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. After investigating if disaster myths were used, further analysis was conducted as to how the disaster myths were used and represented. By conducting a content analysis, a framing analysis and a discourse analysis, it was established that when reporting on disasters in the USA both CNN and FOX in their online coverage of Hurricane Harvey seldom used disaster myths. When disaster myths were used, these were primarily the myths of panic and low community morale. In contrast location appeared to factor greatly into the reporting and representation of Irma, with FOX online primarily reporting on the impact Irma was having on the USA. In contrast CNN online focused on the impact of Irma both inside the USA and outside the USA. However CNN made frequent use of the disaster myths of looting and anti-social behaviour when reporting on events outside the USA. Disaster myths appear to be uncommonly used when reporting on events occurring inside the borders of the USA, however disaster myths are frequently used when reporting on events occurring outside the USA. The myths of panic and looting are still being used despite years of research proving that people tend to not abandon all societal norms during and after a disaster situation.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.