For understanding the formation of public opinion or citizen action which appears in the form of anti-nuclear or pro-nuclear movements, there is the need to analyse media content for the development of this subject matter over a period of time as the media influences public awareness of issues through framing of news.
This study examined the frames, direction of story, placement of story and sources cited in the newspaper coverage of nuclear issues in Ghana.
Data was collected by means of quantitative content analysis of stories on nuclear issues in the Daily Graphic and The Ghanaian Times for the periods 1962 to 1964; 1966 to 1968; 2005 to 2007 and 2011 to 2013.
Findings suggest that the anti-nuclear frame of ‘public accountability’ representing 39.0% was used to define nuclear issues; the direction of story on nuclear issues in the two newspapers was neutral represented by 54.0% articles; both newspapers did not place much importance on stories on nuclear issues as 93.0% of the articles were published on other pages other than the front page, centre page and back page and the majority of sources cited in both newspapers were the news agencies represented by 54.0% of the articles analysed.
Recommendation is both media and nuclear experts should familiarise themselves with the activities of each other for the effective dissemination of relevant news on nuclear issues in Ghana.
News coverage of nuclear issues is an essential aspect of public discourse. This is particularly so because of the media’s pivotal role in informing and educating the public on subjects which causes a lot of apprehension such as nuclear issues. News paper coverage of nuclear issues is therefore important because past research has established that in times of nuclear accidents like the Chernobyl nuclear accident, majority of people resorted to the media as the primary source of information to the detriment of the formal information sources. Coverage of nuclear issues has been primarily linked to risks of technological hazards with significant impact on politics, legal issues, economics, environment, public health and psychological effects (Kim & Bie, 2013; SNAS, 2008a; Abalkina & Melikhova, 2006). Some of these risks include threats to public health (Kim & Bie, 2013; Gupta et al., 2011). The dominant emotions associated with the nuclear technology are fear and anxiety (Arulchelvan, 2013; Gamson, 1992). Therefore, investigating media representations of controversial issues is a prominent aspect of media and communication research because of the media’s role in shaping issues for the audience.
Although we live in a radioactive world, our society is apprehensive with the potential radioactive contamination of the environment resulting from the technological development and applications of nuclear science (IAEA, 2008; Shapiro, 1990). Radiations are defined as energy in motion originating from the sun and could be grouped into two main categories: natural and man-made sources.
Natural radiation sources originate from cosmic rays from the sun and outer space, the earth’s crust which exist in the environment in rocks and the soil, atmosphere, air and water and food (Potassium-40). Artificial sources originate from various types of accelerators, electron sources and artificial radioactivity used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in medicine, industrial applications, defense, veterinary and educational purposes (IAEA, 2008). Since the discovery of radiations, major developments in the nuclear industry which initially focussed on the production of defense weapons during World War II in 1945 is now concentrating on the peaceful applications of nuclear knowledge and technology in the areas of science, medicine, industry, education and research (DOE, n.d).
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