ARTICLE: Climate change reporting needs alternative frames

Retrieving Dropped Supplies by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, licence: CC BY 2.0

Environmental injustice is a key issue in understanding climate change. When discussing environmental justice, mainstream media mainly reproduces anthropocentrism, that is, a human-centric view, write Renée Moernaut, of Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University of Antwerp, Jelle Mast, of Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Yves Pepermans, of University of Antwerp.

The researchers conducted a multimodal framing analysis, looking both at written and visual elements of articles published in four mainstream and alternative news outlets in Flanders, Belgium. They looked at the use of the “environmental justice frame”. The paper points out two important subframes:

  • a hegemonic, anthropocentric frame of ‘unequal vulnerability’
  • and a counter-hegemonic, biocentric frame of ‘unequal attribution’.

The environmental justice frame occurred in all the news outlets studied, and it was most prevalent in De Morgen and DeWereldMorgen. The ‘unequal vulnerability’ subframe was dominant in both mainstream papers and the alternative outlet. The analysis demonstrates that the counter-hegemonic subframe is also qualitatively weaker than its well-developed counterpart.

The authors stress that it is important to provide audience with non-hegemonic and counter-hegemonic perspectives. When using the hegemonic subframe – even with the intention to denounce injustice – the media end up reinforcing injustice. Alternatives exist, but are insufficient at the moment. Concluding, the authors offer some suggestions towards more responsible journalism.

The article “Reversed positionality, reversed reality? The multimodal Environmental Justice frame in mainstream and alternative media” was published in International Communication Gazette and is available on the journal’s website (abstract public) and from (requires login).

Picture: Retrieving Dropped Supplies by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, licence: CC BY 2.0

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