Year of Publication

2019

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Communication and Information

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Jeannette Sutton

Abstract

During high-impact weather events like Hurricane Harvey, broadcast meteorologists take on the role of sensegiver, as they develop frameworks to help their viewers make sense of the storm. These frameworks are communicated through rhetorical choices evident in the language the meteorologists use to describe the storm’s threat and impact. This study investigates the rhetorical choices of KHOU broadcast meteorologists during Hurricane Harvey in order to make sense of the disaster, using an inductive thematic analysis. The results indicate that the KHOU broadcasters framed Harvey figuratively as an all-encompassing monster and a heat-seeking machine. The meteorologists used emotionally intense language to emphasize their concern about the forecast, to compare the event to previous flooding disasters, to describe Harvey’s catastrophic impact, and to express disbelief regarding the situation unfolding around them. These results show how sensegiving can be articulated rhetorically via specific language features like describing Harvey as a monster, or comparing Harvey’s impact to Hurricane Katrina. These specific language features identified here should be tested for their effectiveness in order to allow meteorologists across the weather enterprise to speak about threats and impacts in a more consistent manner.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2019.230

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