The Framing of Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Issues in Pennsylvania Newspapers

Open Access
Brown, Elise Eleanor
Graduate Program:
Agricultural and Extension Education
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
June 14, 2013
Committee Members:
  • John Ewing, Thesis Advisor
  • Marcellus Shale
  • newspaper
  • media
  • frame
  • agenda setting
Thousands of articles on Marcellus Shale gas drilling and development were written in Pennsylvania newspapers from 2008-2012 (NewsBank, 2013). These stories can have an influence on how the public views the drilling because the media affect public opinion and community consensus (Bridger & Harp, 1990; Haigh, 2010; Jasperson, Shah, Watts, Faber, & Fan, 1998; McCombs, 1997). In turn, public opinion can affect public policy and other decisions made in a community (Dearing & Rogers, 1996; Jordan & Page, 1992). This study examined how newspapers in Pennsylvania portrayed issues related to Marcellus Shale gas drilling and development. The theories of agenda-setting and framing were used. Objective newspaper articles from newspapers in Pennsylvania written between the years 2008-2012 that discuss Marcellus Shale gas drilling and development were evaluated for any differences in frames and topics from year-to-year, between regions in Pennsylvania, and between mainstream media and agriculture media. The top ten topics discussed, the most common benefits and risks, the way the Marcellus Shale industry is portrayed in newspaper articles also were analyzed. Legislation, gas companies, the environment and economics were the main focuses of the newspaper articles. Over half (53.1%) of newspaper articles depicted Marcellus Shale in a neutral way. According to Downs’ (1972) Issue-Attention Cycle, it appears that, in Pennsylvania, Marcellus Shale gas drilling and development is in the third stage, in which the public learns that significant progress will have a significant cost, or the fourth stage, in which intense public interest gradually declines. Further research should examine the public opinion on Marcellus Shale drilling and development to see if there is a connection between opinion and issues related to drilling and development presented in the media, similar to the McCombs & Shaw (1972) study in Chapel Hill, which found a correlation between information presented in the media about political issues and public opinion.