Media and Science in Disaster Contexts: Deliberations on Earthquakes in the Regional Press in Kerala, India

Shiju Sam Varughese


The close coupling between media and science becomes predominant in the context of public controversies over science during disasters like earthquakes. The paper discusses some crucial aspects of this dynamic by investigating the role of regional press in Kerala, India, in initiating and maintaining a public controversy over a series of micro earthquakes in 2001 amidst growing public skepticism over the competence of Earth Science to convincingly explain the phenomenon. The press employed various strategies to challenge the official scientific explanation of the phenomenon and broke open the ground for a spectrum of alternative interpretations and critical interventions, affirming greater public participation in science. Most of the experts continued to downplay the concerns raised by the media, but closure was attained when a lesser-known team of experts convincingly interpreted the geological events while participating in the deliberations. The paper analyses how the media played a crucial role in revealing and enhancing the entanglement of science with diverse actors and institutions during the controversy.

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