Knowing Nature Through The Media: An Examination of Mainstream Print and Television Representations of the Non-human World

Mark Meisner “Knowing Nature Through The Media: An Examination of Mainstream Print and Television Representations of the Non-human World,” in Proceedings of the 7th Biennial Conference on Communication and Environment, eds. Greg Walker and William Kinsella. Corvalis: Department of Speech Communication, Oregon State University, 2005.

Abstract

This work is premised on the idea that the mainstream mass media are the primary sources of meanings about non-human Nature in contemporary North American society. This project considers the meanings of Nature and human relations with it that are produced by the overall media landscape. To explore this, a qualitative analysis using original methods and grounded theory was conducted on a representative sample of 350 media texts from Canadian newspapers, magazines, and television. All of the texts contained references to either environmental issues or aspects of Nature and so formed a sample of the ‘discourse of Nature.’ Texts were coded for such things as how they valued and characterized Nature, what role Nature played in the texts’ narratives, how Nature was related to both humans and technology, what issues in relation to Nature were present in the texts, how the problems underlying those issues were defined, and what actions in relation to Nature were suggested. Following a multi-layered analysis, numerous competing and complementary ideas of Nature and agendas for action vis-à-vis Nature were identified in the discourse. It is argued that in this case the mass media present a coherent ideology which amounts to the “symbolic domestication of Nature.”

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