Award Date

5-1-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Journalism and Media Studies

First Committee Member

Paul J. Traudt

Second Committee Member

Lawrence Mullen

Third Committee Member

Julian Kilker

Fourth Committee Member

Robert Futrell

Number of Pages

148

Abstract

Discussions of human-caused climate change have become an increasingly salient artifact of various media in recent years. With regard to print media in particular, scholars have uncovered general increases in the frequencies with which climate change articles are published, tantamount to the annual reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advocating the detriments of human activities (particularly carbon dioxide emissions) on the natural environment. Among such reports—be they scientific or anecdotal—writers and journalists have had to interpret the ongoing discussions and evidence surrounding climate change, and develop schemas (or frames) in which to situate arguments. These arguments have taken various forms and have extended beyond the binary notions of being entirely supportive or oppositional to the existing scientific evidence advanced by the IPCC. In turn, scholars have developed myriad approaches for studying the phenomena of climate change portrayals, both in terms of analyzing content and attitudinal effects on audiences.

Following the direction of previous scholars, this study examines portrayals of climate change from a regionally distributed publication situated in the desert southwest: the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Given the environmental precariousness to which Las Vegas, NV has been exposed in recent decades—particularly with regard to extreme, prolonged drought and infrastructural issues pertaining to water distribution (Brean, 2013; Futrell, 2001; Holthaus, 2014; Shine, 2014)—this analysis uncovers the trends of particular frames engaged to communicate climate change among 1,111 articles between 1997 and 2014. Specific frames include the attribution of responsibility frame, human interest frame, conflict frame, morality frame and economic consequences frame. Additional factors, such as discussions of geographic areas, authorship patterns across various types of articles, and placement patterns of articles in the physical newspaper, are also considered. Overall, this study found discussions of conflict and economic consequences to appear with greatest magnitude amid frequent references to Southern Nevada specifically. Amid generally increasing frequencies of article publications, climate change articles remained moderately visible with regard to placement in the physical newspaper, as almost all articles were situated on pages succeeding the first page (A1) and within the second section (B). Finally, over half of all news articles were produced by 10 authors, and almost all articles were produced by journalists from the Las Vegas Review-Journal or a financially affiliated organization. Given these results, this analysis argues the Las Vegas Review-Journal constructs a reality of climate change that is somewhat removed from the historical developments of environmentalism, where discussions encompassing conflict and potential economic consequences are the paramount constructs within climate change portrayals. This analysis further argues support for notions of framing theory, and the necessity to consider the regional, cultural and geospatial contexts when developing stimuli design for audience effects investigations.

Keywords

Anthropogenic climate change; Climatic changes – Press coverage; Content analysis (Communication); Environmental communication; Environmentalism; Framing; Global warming – Press coverage; Las Vegas Review Journal; Media Studies; Newspapers

Disciplines

Broadcast and Video Studies | Climate | Communication | Journalism Studies

Language

English


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