Disasters focus attention on hazards, creating a window of opportunity to adopt new risk reduction policies. The news media can shape post-disaster policy debate by directing the attention of policy makers toward problems and solutions. A content analysis of newspaper coverage around two of Canada’s most significant floods reveals that the media are focused more on the short-term impacts of hazards than on the policy problems that underpin flood risk. Broadening the constituency of flood risk management advocates and improving outreach with stakeholders could help to better leverage the focal power of media coverage for disaster management policy change.

  • Jason Thistlethwaite is a CIGI senior fellow, as well as assistant professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo.

  • Daniel Henstra is a CIGI senior fellow and associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo.