Why Media Matter: The Democratic Handling of Complex Environmental Issues
Annika Egan Sjölander, Umeå University, Sweden
Environmental problems pose great challenges for late-modern societies. Broad involvement in decision-making processes and public participation are seen as ways to handle uncertainty and to create legitimacy for the decisions that need to be made. The (mass) media play a crucial role in these processes. Large-scale engagement in societal issues is hard to even imagine without support from media institutions.
The purpose of this paper is to shed light to ‘classic’ arguments about the democratic roles of mass media and to discuss the relevance of them in relation to today’s society. The media landscape and the journalistic profession are undergoing dramatic changes. The trust in politicians and scientists has decreased, yet citizens depend more than ever on expert advice. What these circumstances mean for the democratic handling of contemporary environmental problems and why media (still) matter, will be explored further.
Keywords: media, democracy, environment, public participation
Television Coverage of the Cancun Summit on Spanish TV
Juan Carlos Águila Coghlan, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
To investigate trends in the framing of the news on climate change on different TV channels in Spain, the news during the Cacún summit were registered and analized. For the analysis of records, a testing protocol was developed, which identifies the channel, the program, the broadcast schedule for the ranking of the news in relation to the rest of news delivered in the report, the section to which ascribes the news, and the duration of the news itself. To analyze the content of the news itself, the full sentence of the story presentation is registrered, and determining the focus of the news by keywords, such as climate change, environmental crisis, greenhouse effect, and others.
Focusing on the “Off” of the piece of information, the elements of the construction of the discourse are determined, and the trend of the information as if it shows “agree”, “willingness to negotiate” or “confrontation”.
Keywords: Climate change, environment crisis, greenhouse effect
Affecting Environments: emotional experiences between media and place in the Save Our Forests campaign
Alex Lockwood, University of Sunderland
Of the nine boundaries proposed by Rockstrom et al (2010) as a checklist of planetary health, humanity has transgressed three: climate change, the rate of biodiversity loss, and interference with the nitrogen cycle.
Climate change is perhaps the most recognisably pressing of all nine categories. However, this paper will focus on the environmental journalism of biodiversity loss, and specifically the ways in which emotional frames are employed in the reporting and conveyance of such loss.
Much of the reporting on biodiversity has focused on individual species, charismatic mega-fauna and mega-flora (e.g. gorillas and the Amazon). This paper will turn to a smaller species—the British bee—and, drawing on the work of Lorimer on non-human charisma (2005), evolutionary and cognitive psychology, and affect theory, map out ways in which emotional responses are (or, are not) elicited in the reporting of species essential to ecological health, and the repercussions for pro-conservation behaviours.
Keywords: biodiversity, environmental journalism, emotion, bee, non-human charisma
Mediating environmental change: choose conflict
Pieter Maeseele, University of Antwerp, Belgium
This paper calls for the conceptual and empirical recognition of many debates on environmental issues as genuine “social conflicts”. Climate change, genetic engineering, nuclear energy, nanotech, etc., are examples of environmental debates in which we find contestation between various social actors based on competing risk definitions. However, these risk definitions are based not only on competing rationality claims in terms of how to interpret the science, but also on competing values and interests. Although there is always the expectation that these (often science-led) debates should be settled by referring to the science, we increasingly find that all conflicting parties call upon “sound” science to support their positions, leading to the conclusion that scientific research in these debates functions mainly as a material and discursive resource for these social actors in pursuing broader social, economic or political agendas. I will discuss the benefits of making this conceptual and empirical choice for conflict for the field of environmental reporting, not only for science and environmental journalism itself but also for media scholars studying science and environmental journalism. I will argue that it allows to draw conclusions not only on the contribution of news media to facilitating democratic debate and democratic citizenship, but equally on how to communicate these environmental issues better from the perspective of democratic politics.
Keywords: conflict, environmental debates, environmental journalism, democratic debate, democratic politics