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Newspaper Media Content Analysis: Community Effects of Induced Seismicity in Oklahoma

Georgia Halkia, & Lisa Grant Ludwig

Published August 8, 2017, SCEC Contribution #7430, 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #307 (PDF)

Poster Image: 
Since 2010, seismicity in Oklahoma has increased dramatically. In 2014, Oklahoma experienced more earthquakes of M3 or greater than California, a state known as Earthquake Country. In 2015 there were >907 earthquakes M>3, providing motivation for USGS to publish a 1-year seismic hazard forecast map in 2016. After years of rancorous debate, deep wastewater injection was recognized as the lead cause of increased seismicity. News media since 2010 reported seismic events, yet state leaders were slow to respond, or take any action to protect the people of Oklahoma. Several neighborhoods have been impacted severely, and residents were left alone to deal with the aftermath of induced earthquakes. Studies show that news media play an important role in influencing people. We analyzed, recorded, and classified into key themes the messages communicated to the people of Oklahoma by conducting a content analysis of newspaper articles (n=314) published in 2010-2016 regarding induced seismicity in Oklahoma. Key themes that emerged from our analysis explain the delayed action to safeguard affected communities. The majority of articles were focused on the debate over whether deep-wastewater injection is responsible for the increased seismicity. Very few articles discussed the need to prepare for earthquakes. Outrage was expressed by both the affected communities and the energy industry’s stakeholders who denied any wrong-doing. Focus on the debate had an indirect effect on the communities by introducing confusion, uncertainty, and fear of job losses. Traditional preparedness actions may not fully apply to induced seismicity since the frequency of earthquakes makes it challenging to offer affordable comprehensive insurance coverage to home owners.

Key Words
induced seismicity, wastewater injection, earthquake preparedness, outrage

Halkia, G., & Grant Ludwig, L. (2017, 08). Newspaper Media Content Analysis: Community Effects of Induced Seismicity in Oklahoma. Poster Presentation at 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Communication, Education, and Outreach (CEO)