The Framing of Climate Change in New Zealand Newspapers
Climate change is the major global environmental challenge of our time. The urgency and ambition with which world leaders come to respond to this challenge will be determined in part by public perceptions of the issue, and the extent of their support for strong measures to tackle it. Despite a firm consensus within the scientific community regarding the threat posed by climate change however, the public appear to hold ambivalent beliefs and attitudes regarding the priority of the problem, and the evidence for its anthropogenic causes. Given the influential role the news media is understood to play in shaping public perceptions of and attitudes towards climate change, understanding this disparity (and eventually attempting to address it) necessitates a consideration of how the problem has been framed in news discourse. This thesis investigates how climate change has been framed across recent coverage in New Zealand’s three most widely read daily newspapers with the aim of building upon and contributing to the current literature. The study was carried out through the use of a quantitative content analysis of articles published in the New Zealand Herald, The Press and The Dominion Post between June 2009 and June 2010. The study sample of 540 articles was collected through the electronic news database Factiva using the search terms “climate change” OR “global warming”. Frames were analysed deductively according to an experimental frame typology, and coding was carried out by the author. Using a coding scheme developed by McComas and Shanahan (1999) frames were coded as either “absent”, “dominant”, or “present”. Sources appearing in articles were coded similarly as either “absent” or “present”, and basic descriptive data recorded. The results of the content analysis showed that Politics (26%), Social Progress (21%) and Economic Competitiveness (16%) frames were the most prominent in coverage, whilst frames emphasising potential Consequences (12%), Scientific Controversy (6%) and Moral (5%) considerations were the least common. Political actors (33%) and Academics (20%) appeared most commonly as sources whilst “Sceptics” represented just three percent of the total identified. Building upon the current literature, these results suggest that New Zealand newspapers have framed climate change in terms largely in accordance with the scientific consensus position. Furthermore, this study has shown that rather than focus on the problem itself, the New Zealand Herald, The Press and The Dominion Post have framed climate change in terms emphasising potential political, behavioural and technological responses to the challenge of climate change, and the potential costs and benefits of these potential “solutions” to individuals, economies and society more generally. Further research into how the issue has been framed in different media such as TV, popular magazines and websites is called for. This thesis presents a foundation of knowledge from which further studies may build.
Advisor: Fleming, Jean; Devadas, Vijay
Degree Name: Master of Science Communication
Degree Discipline: Centre for Science Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: climate change; New Zealand; Frame analysis; Framing analysis; Framing; Frames; global warming; media analysis; New Zealand newspapers; Newspapers
Research Type: Thesis