Impact of the Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud: A newspaper perspective



[1] We carried out a content analysis of eight national newspapers published during a 10-day period spanning Eyjafjallajökull's 2010 air space closure. Our intent was to understand the amount and type of material published, and the contribution of volcanologists and emergency responders to this material. We selected the best selling broadsheets and tabloids from the UK, France, Italy and USA. A total area of 135,000 cm2 was devoted to Eyjafjallajökull. Of this, 33% dealt with social themes, followed by volcanological (24%), economic (17%), response (13%) and airline (8%) issues. If, however, we examine the sources providing information we find a very different situation. Altogether, 669 sources were cited as giving quotes, of which 33% were credited to the air industry, followed by public (22%), politicians (12%), volcanologists (9%), responders (8%) and economists (2%). We also recorded all word descriptors for the ash cloud and its effects, with a total of 5380 words being logged. Negative words were the most common, with stranded having the highest frequency (180); chaos appearing 57 times. Coverage, thus, tended to feature quotes from the air industry, and carry a negative air; at times being confusing and contradictory. This, coupled with the fact that volcanological pieces tended to be placed well down the reporting order, meant that the message was of a chaotic situation and response, the performance of those who could be ascribed blame, i.e., responsible government agencies, thus likely being perceived in a negative light.