Environmental Conflict and Media Coverage of an Oil Spill in Trinidad

  • Godfrey A. Steele
  • Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, January 2016, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1111/ncmr.12068

How the media covers an environmental conflict involving an oil spill in Trinidad

What is it about?

In December 2013, local media reported an oil spill off the southwestern coast of Trinidad. Subsequent media reports generated local and international interest, statements, and commentary from company and government interests and members of the La Brea community (fisherfolk and residents directly affected by the oil spill), the national community, trade unionists, politicians, oil spill experts, and environmentalists.

Why is it important?

Usually media coverage of a local oil spill attracts attention, but not all receive the same coverage, nor are links made between local and global experiences and the lessons to be learnt. As the news coverage developed, various narrative themes emerged. Within these themes, various conflict issues, mainly pertaining to the nature and focus of communication, and differences over the prevention, mitigation and management of environmental disasters were manifested in the media coverage and corporate communications management of crisis and reputation. Using crisis communication theory, and content analysis of media and company texts, this study examined the extent of media coverage and organizational and corporate communications framing of the creation, escalation, and management of a significant environmental conflict situation.


Dr Godfrey A Steele
University of the West Indies

This paper was an attempt to document and capture the in situ experience of an unfolding and largely yet understood environmental conflict created by an oil spill and the way the stakeholders' narratives and media coverage emerged.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Godfrey A Steele