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The role of solutions journalism in engaging audiences on the climate emergency

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
In this dissertation, I examine a specialized method for reporting the news called "solutions journalism." I explore and assess the extent to which solutions journalism on climate change offers an improvement upon conventional news narratives and frames, with respect to the requirements of effective climate change communication. I outline the history and development of solutions journalism in the context of journalism's various roles in society. Then, I offer a substantive review of the literature on climate change communication, especially as it concerns questions around political efficacy and collective action. Using a critical discourse analysis of over 100 news stories identified as solutions journalism, along with two solutions-oriented case studies, I offer a qualitative analysis of this specialized method and its approach toward reporting on climate change. The qualitative analysis of news texts is supplemented with interviews from journalists who pioneered the solutions approach, journalism educators, editors, as well as experts in the field of climate change communication and public opinion research. I conclude that there are still some important shortcomings and blind spots in solutions journalism on climate change. Notably, there continues to be a tendency to report on solutions as a direct 'response' to conflict. But my research finds that the best solutions journalism on climate is actually grounded in conflict framing – of a generative and mobilizing kind. Solutions stories showing how people and communities are facing up to the existential threat posed by climate change and, simultaneously, challenging power through grassroots dissent, collective action and other forms of political mobilization, constitute the greatest improvement over an otherwise simplistic 'problems vs. solutions' frame implicit in the original conceptualization of solutions reporting.
284 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Gunster, Shane
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