Accepted Paper:

Opening Up Media Accounts of Climate Change  


Stephen Zehr (University of Southern Indiana)

Paper short abstract:

Three forms of plurality in newspaper accounts of climate change across four nations from 2000-2015 are considered.

Paper long abstract:

As perhaps a means to block skeptical voices and create momentum for international and national policy, scientific and environmental NGO communities increasingly emphasize a scientific consensus around global climate change and the need for global climate change policy. STS scholars, on the other hand, often emphasize the need to open up environmental & sustainability problems inviting development of a plurality of values, expertise, and innovations (e.g., Leach, Scoones, & Stirling 2010). This presentation asks how opening up may be applied to analyses of mass media accounts of climate change and its potential clash with calls for consensus and the formation of what Habermas refers to as the abstract public. I suggest that plurality in media accounts may be read in at least three ways: 1) representation of different opinions across the ideological divide on climate change - journalistic balancing; 2) representation of diverse frames; 3) representation of what I call hybrid frames that bring together two or more common news frames (drawing here from Max Boykoff's work), adding both depth and range to accounts. Empirical results are provided from a content analysis of climate change articles in major national newspapers in four nations from 2000-2015 and personal interviews with several climate change journalists. Has there been change over this time period in these forms of plurality? What are key differences across nations?

Panel T032
Science Communication