Media Contributions to a Chesapeake Bay Watershed Collective Identity? A Tale of Three Cities

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Although collective action is needed to address many environmental challenges, it cannot proceed in the absence of collective identity, that is, evidence of group belongingness expressed in or via communicative behavior. This study looked for evidence of a collective identity in newspaper articles that referenced the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The data were drawn from local papers published in municipalities located at the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, midway down the Susquehanna, and where the river meets the Bay. Computerized content analysis assessed the frequency with which the Chesapeake Bay and watershed were mentioned alongside a set of keywords thought to represent different facets of identity (e.g., agriculture, fishing, swimming). The results showed substantial variation in frequency across time and place but low absolute levels of coverage of the Bay and the watershed. Multidimensional scaling revealed different structures to collective identity as a function of place. These differences in content may be attributable to varying demographic and environmental characteristics along with proximity to the Bay. But, to the extent that media contribute to collective identity among residents of the watershed at all, they do so in a complex and heterogeneous manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-868
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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