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Comm-entary

Publication Date

5-2019

Abstract

An honors thesis.

Advised by: Dr. Kate Zambon

Nearing the end of 2017, the United States and the Caribbean were struck with back-to- back natural disasters that left the country in shock and turmoil. Among the three hurricanes that struck sequentially, Hurricane Harvey landed in Texas approximately on August 25th, 2017 and Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean and Puerto Rico around September 20th, 2017. These disasters were a test for the new presidential cabinet of how they would handle their first natural disaster. Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Harvey caused similar levels of destruction, with Maria being a category five storm and Harvey a category four. However, the media reacted differently to the crisis that unfolded in Puerto Rico in comparison to Texas. This study focuses on how journalists and the news industry covered both disasters and compares and contrasts the manner in which they were done. Pulling in media industry knowledge, rhetoric and cultural theory, the study uncovers how disaster communication was influenced by societal values involving culture and examines how the narrative journalists participated in affected the coverage, in turn shaping public knowledge.

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