The politics of disaster reporting in online news: A multimodal critical discourse anaylsis of news reports on Typhoon Lando

Date of Publication


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science


College of Liberal Arts


Political Science

Thesis Adviser

Antonio P. Contreras

Defense Panel Chair

Maria Divina Gracia Z. Roldan

Defense Panel Member

Dennis S. Erasga
Jean S. Encinas Franco
Jazmin B. Llana


Much of what we know about disaster reporting in the news media limits our conception of politics to what state actors do during crises. Largely unnoticed by previous studies on this topic is the extent to which other modes apart from language are utilized for ideological purposes. Accordingly, this paper describes how the multimodal online news reportage of Typhoon Lando contributes to the maintenance of existing arrangements for disaster risk reduction (DRR). For that purpose, it asks how semiotic resources are used to represent social action, in what way are these shaped by the discourse practices of journalism, and who are mainly passivated/activated by these representations and at what cost.

Central to answering these questions is the deployment of Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis (MCDA) as an approach to analyzing transitivity or who does what to whom and how in press photographs and the body text all across the twenty-eight (28) online news reports collected from Guided by the main categories of transitivity analysis, namely: process, participant, and circumstance, the content analysis shows that social action was primarily construed in terms of what stakeholders say. In line with this, policy experts occupy much of the sayer roles in the news discourse followed by public officials. A second finding is that journalists relied heavily on elite sources of information because the news audiences preference for scientific knowledge did not go against their professional practices which emphasized their strong ties with established power and the pre-eminence of objectivity and empiricism in news reporting on the one hand and the uncontroversial nature of the news discourse itself on the other. Finally, the masking of social power relations in the discourse underscores the limitations of disaster reporting during the response and early recovery phase of a disaster event. Yet, the inevitable tendency to overshadow politics in favor of focusing on the immediate in this phase reminds us of the need to appreciate the critical value of news texts in connection with the wider, longer-term, and everyday problems of inequality, marginalization, and bad governance besetting Philippine communities.

Following this, three recommendations were provided in the paper. First, future research into the politics of disaster reporting should look into the lived experiences of those who produce and consume news reports to better understand the practices that give birth to meaning. Second, collaborative media literacy projects involving stakeholders from the academe, industry, civil society, and the scientific community must be carried out to educate the public about the socio-economic, cultural and political contexts of climate change and disasters. Third and lastly, it must be recognized that ordinary people who are not charged with any formal responsibility in DRRM are equally positioned to mobilize change as those who do through their ability to read news texts in new and fresh ways.

Abstract Format






Accession Number


Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F Henry Sy Sr. Hall

Physical Description

1 computer disc ; 4 3/4 in.


Weather broadcasting--Philippines; Broadcast journalism--Philippines

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