Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Deserai Anderson Crow

Second Advisor

J. Richard Stevens

Third Advisor

Nabil Echchaibi

Abstract

This study investigates the previously unstudied role that popular magazines, as a form of soft news, potentially have in framing climate change debates, by carrying messages about the issue in ways that traditional media research has overlooked. This is done using content analysis to identify frequency of coverage and framing themes of climate change existence, causes, implications, and solutions.

With monthly circulations as high as 23 million per magazine, and a diverse audience that includes the American working class, magazines in this study vary widely across genres in their coverage and presentation of climate change from framing, sourcing, and policy evaluation perspectives. Over the one‐year period measured, fewer than half of the 48 publications analyzed covered the topic at all, and those that did cover it did so with cursory treatment more often than not. Framing themes suggested that scientific consensus was favored, controversy avoided, often in favor of discussing the challenges and complications that lay ahead, and public policy was focused on more than reliance on voluntary actions for mitigation and adaptation. These findings indicate that climate change remains low on the soft news media radar, but that the topic may be undergoing a subtle but hopeful paradigm shift away from controversy toward solution.

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