Making the News: Constructing Climate Change in an Online World

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography


The media is critical for public engagement with climate change, and an area receiving increasing academic attention through the concept of framing. However, there are two key limitations to this work.
First, the majority of scholarly literature focuses on traditional media, despite the increasing diversity of news sources, particularly 'digital-born' new media organisations. These are seeing rapid audience growth. As well as being sites of climate journalistic innovation, they are employing more environment journalists (bucking the trend for journalism redundancies). Digital-born environment news organisations are thus essential collaborators in understanding how to engage people more effectively with climate change.

Second, academic literature is limited in scope. If the communication cycle is imagined as an ongoing loop (Hall 1973), there are three interest points: production (how news is created), content (the news 'artefact') and consumption (engagement with content). The literature is dominated by content studies (Nisbet, 2009), with some focus on audience response (O'Neill and Smith, 2014). Work on news production is extremely limited. This is problematic, as neither content nor audience studies address how and why certain frames exist, and not others. There is huge potential for climate engagement impact here, since certain framings of climate news (e.g. as a health issue) are much more engaging than others (e.g. as a disputed scientific issue; O'Neill et al. 2015): yet currently, less engaging frames dominate climate news (O'Neill 2013).

This PhD project will address these two significant research gaps, co-producing research with leading digital-born climate news organisations, using frame theory, to empirically study "frame-building" in climate news production. The project proposes interdisciplinary research drawing on geography, environmental social science, psychology, politics, and media and journalism studies.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2242463 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2019 31/01/2024 Sylvia Hayes