Environment in Crisis

The Media
The Media

Framing the News


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Framing the News

Style vs Content
Bland vs Controversial
Entertainment vs Analysis
Events vs Processes
Emotion vs Explanation
Personalities vs Policies
Isolated Incidents vs Systemic Problem


The environmental movement relies extensively on the mass media to get its message across to the general public, but doing so has its costs.

In the late twentieth century, political movements feel called upon to rely on large-scale communications in order to matter, to say who they are and what they intend to publics they want to sway; but in the process they become 'newsworthy' only by submitting to the implicit rules of newsmaking, by conforming to journalistic notions (themselves embedded in history) of what a 'story' is, what an 'event' is, what a 'protest' is. The processed image then tends to become 'the movement' for wider publics... (Gitlin 1980, p. 3)

In his analysis of how the media treated the new left student movement of the 1960s and 70s, Todd Gitlin observes how the movement was at first trivialised and marginalised through images that emphasised frivolity, youth, outlandishness, militancy and deviance whilst understating numbers, effectiveness and neglecting the content of the movement's statements and the causes of their protests. "Thus the protesters were made the issue rather than the things they were protesting." (Parenti 1986, p. 91) Such media images and symbols are powerful, not only in shaping the public perception of a movement but also the movement's perception of itself.

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Additional Material

Bagdikian, Ben H. 1983, The Media Monopoly (Beacon Press: Boston).

Barnett, Steven, 1994, Packaging Politics: Political Communications in Britain's Media Democracy, New Statesman & Society, Vol. 7, No. May 27.

Dumanoski, Dianne, 1994, Mudslinging on the Earth-beat, The Amicus Journal, 14(4), pp. 40-41.

Entman, Robert M. 1989, Democracy Without Citizens: Media and the Decay of American Politics (New York: Oxford University Press).

Fallows, James, 1996, Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy (New York: Pantheon Books).

Gamson, William A., David Croteau, William Hoynes and Theodore Sasson, 1992, 'Media Images and the Social Construction of Reality', Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 18.

Gersh, Debra, 1992, Covering solid waste issues, Editor & Publisher, Vol. 125, No. August 29.

Gitlin, Todd, 1980, The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Glover, Richard, 1993, 'Blink and You'll Miss it', Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August, p. 40.

Gold, Philip, 1994, Just say no to infotainment, Insight on the News, Vol. 10, No. 28.

Hoggart, Simon Filleted Fish, New Statesman & Society, 24 March 1995.

Kellner, Douglas, 1990, Television and the Crisis of Democracy (Boulder: Westview Press).

Kurtz, Howard, 1996, Hot Air: All Talk, All the Time (New York: Random House).

Lee, Martin A. and Norman Solomon, 1990, Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media (New York: Carol Publishing Group).

Levy, Mark R. 1992, 'Learning from Television News', in Philip S. Cook, Douglas Gomery and Lawrence W. Lichty (eds), The Future of News: Television-Newspapers-Wire Services-Newsmagazines (Washington, D.C.: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press).

McNair, Brian, 1994, News and Journalism in the UK (London and New York: Routledge).

Parenti, Michael, 1986, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media (New York: St Martin's Press).

Ricci, David, 1993, The Transformation of American Politics: The New Washington and the Rise of Think Tanks (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Russell, Dick, 1990, 'EPA Official Accuses Nightline of Distortions', Lies of Our Times, June, p. 5.

Ryan, Charlotte, 1991, Prime Time Activism: Media Strategies for Grassroots Organizing (Boston, MA: South End Press).

Spencer, Miranda, 1992, 'U. S. Environmental Reporting: The Big Fizzle:', Extra! April/May.

Waldman, Amy, 1996, Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy, Washington Monthly, Vol. 28, No. Jan-Feb.

Windschuttle, Keith, 1988, The Media: A new analysis of the press, television, radio and advertising in Australia, 2nd ed (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin).

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© 2003 Sharon Beder