Deflection, disassociation, & acknowledgement: a content analysis of the 2011–2014 media framing of hydraulic fracturing and Oklahoma earthquakes



In June of 2014, geologists reported that, for the first time, more earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.0 occurred in Oklahoma than in California [Terry-Cobo, 2014]. In Oklahoma, the frequency of earthquakes that are strong enough to be felt has increased 44 times in recent years and this has been correlated to a dramatic increase in high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHHF) operations [Hume, 2014]. The aims of this study are: (1) to determine how hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, and Oklahoma earthquakes are framed by print-based media at the local, national, and international levels; (2) to understand how the association between these factors has evolved over time; and (3) to further analyze the differences between experts on the subjects of causality and threat characterization (e.g., severity). A total of 169 print news reports were included for analysis: 48 local/Oklahoma reports (28% of total sample), 72 national reports (42% of total sample) and 49 international news reports (30% of total sample). The findings reveal significant differences in the frame techniques, sources of information, and the foci of subject matter between three different media scales in print based media. Results, discussion and implications are provided.