This paper describes a new approach for monitoring the social environment for natural resource management and policy, based on content analysis of online news media stories. Content analysis of the media has repeatedly been shown to produce results that are closely correlated with attitude surveys and opinion polls. Computer methods were used to analyse almost 30,000 online news stories about the US national forests for expressions of four broad categories of benefits and values. Recreation benefits and values were expressed more often than other categories, both at the national and regional levels, followed by commodity, ecological and moral/spiritual/aesthetic benefits and values. Over the years 1992 through 1996, a gradual upward trend was found in expressions of recreation and moral/spiritual/aesthetic benefits and values and a gradual downward trend was found in expressions of commodity-related benefits and values at the national level, suggesting shifting environmental values and the need to ensure that natural resource management and policy are responsive to changing social values. Computer content analysis of online news stories provides a new method for the continuous monitoring and assessment of a broad range of trends in the social environment in which natural resource decision making takes place.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
1This study is part of a larger project funded by the Office of Communication of the USDA Forest Service.
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- Benefits and values
- Computer content analysis
- National forest
- News media
- Social monitoring
- USDA Forest Service