Master Thesis Media & Journalism

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6.1 Scientific & Social Contributions

This conclusion contributes to the current scientific discussion of the climate change controversy, in such way that most of the previous pieces on climate change address either media discourse or public discourse. On the one hand, there is a vast variety of investigations into the reporting of the media on climate change, that is, the way in which the media tell the different sides of the climate change story, represent the controversy of science, hence become a carrier of controversy themselves. On the other hand though, a great quantity of research has been directed to the formation of public opinions on climate change, that is, the way in which the public, on the basis of the ambiguous media, in fact form an equally ambiguous opinion. However, researches that address both media discourse and public discourse, and how these different discourses continuously cooperate, confirm, but also converse, and consequently construct one another, are relatively rare.

As this thesis indicates, one cannot come to the correct conclusions on either media discourse or public discourse, without combining them. Discourse constructs and is constructed by context. And since the media are part of the public’s context, and the public is part of the media’s context, media discourse and public discourse are completely connected and cannot be studied separately. By acceding, accepting and attending to the inconvenient truth of the influenced influence, instead of working with measuring models, already established frames or other somehow preconceived prejudices, this thesis is a lot more extensive, comprehensive and so closer to the truth, than the prominent part of the previous pieces on climate change. Furthermore, by applying a cross-national comparison between the US and the Netherlands, the conception of context as

the key to comprehending discourse on climate change is confirmed. Never ever has anyone critically compared the different discourses within the US and the Netherlands, connecting these different discourses to their different contexts. While actually, since the US and the Netherlands are such contradictory countries (big country, small country, big share in causing climate change, smaller share in causing climate change, bold, bashful, high hopes, definitely down to earth) this comparison can considerably contribute to the conception of context as an influenced influence in the construction of climate change. What we define as climate change, what we think causes climate change, which effects we emphasize and whether we want to solve climate change, all depends on the country we live in. Different countries have different cultures, different values, hence different contexts. And different contexts construct different discourses. By comparing such contradictory countries this thesis crystal-clearly, comprehensibly, and therefore convincingly contends how the connotation of climate change constructs and is constructed by context. Above all, the combination of different domains (media and public) and different countries (the US and the Netherlands) is an unusual, but useful approach, from which science could actually learn. And last but not least, I hope that the few outsiders who happened to have read this thesis, now know a little bit more on how the current controversy on climate change comes about, how it concerns them and how it can be criticized.

6.2 Strengths & Limitations

Positive points of this thesis are the aforementioned cross-comparisons of media discourse versus public discourse and the US versus the Netherlands. Another strong point is the way I combined two types of discourse analyses, that is CDA, which is generally used to analyze media discourse, and CDP, which is generally used to analyze public discourse, and moulded them into one method. This method made it possible to analyze media discourse and public discourse in the exact same way, hence to compare them, hence to draw convincing conclusions. Besides, the division of definition, causes, effects and solutions of climate change has made the actual analysis of the different discourses and subsequently the report of the results of the different discourses, increasingly clear and intelligible.

Although this thesis is a pretty perfect piece of work, we all know nobody’s perfect. And so a couple of marginal comments are in order. First of all, there is the limitation of representation. I initially intended to study media discourse and public discourse, which are somewhat wide ideas. Hence, unless I would spend the rest of my life interviewing everyone and reading, watching and listening to every media message, it is simply, practically impossible to analyze all media discourse and all public discourse in completeness. Consequently I considered to select samples, that is fifty articles from The New York Times and De Volkskrant, and a fistful of Berkeley University students and Erasmus University students, which I regarded as representative for respectively the US media discourse, the Dutch media discourse, the US public discourse and the Dutch public discourse. However, although I picked out two of the most prominent papers, with a relatively high level of seriousness and objectiveness and a relatively low level of biased babble, and which I therefore presumed to be relatively representative, they turned out to typically target the elite. It is practically impossible to constantly be completely objective, for the presence, or even the absence, of particular publications, punctuations, pictures and promotions implicate a particular point of view. However, the New York Times probably prioritizes New York, which as a business district probably prioritizes businesslike news, and De Volkskrant, as a left leaning paper, probably prefers Groen Links over Wilders, who might have a whole different view on climate change.
Furthermore, since I selected two elite papers with elite target groups, I decided to, due to compatibility and comparability, select the same elite target groups as the public part of my research. And so I interviewed three students from both Berkeley University and Erasmus University, and consequently considered these interviews as representative for respectively the US public discourse and the Dutch public discourse. However, since this part of the public is particularly educated, eloquent, in a word elite, it probably has a whole different view on climate change than less educated, eloquent people, in a word the mediocre, but main part of the public. Besides, due to a shortage of something better, both the Berkeley University students and the Erasmus University students turned out to be business students, which likely have a more businesslike view on climate change than natural science or social science students. Recapitulating, the representation of this research is not optimal, and could be optimized in future research.
Finally, CDA, CDP, and the concerning combination of these two types of discourse analyses, which still is a type of discourse analysis, are typically qualitative research methods. And the quintessential of qualitative research is following feelings. And although I have made a method, which dissects the data step by step, which can be verified and therefore validated and which warrants to implant impartiality, to take every tiny thing into consideration and to get to the truth as close as possible, once again, one can never be constantly completely objective. Nevertheless, I’d say this limitation is a strength as well, for only qualitative research can go into the deepest depths.
6.3 Recommendations

Looking at the limitations of the regarding research, recommendations for future research refer to representation and operational occupations. It would be interesting to test whether different media (so USA Today and Het Algemeneen Dagblad, or entirely different media, such as radio, television or internet) and different publics (so businessmen, housewives, elderly people, homeless people or all of the above combined) construct completely different discourses on climate change, and so completely different conclusions. And although I recommend applying a cross-national comparison, it would be interesting to test whether different countries construct completely different discourses on climate change, and so completely different conclusions. After all, the US and the Netherlands are definitely different, however they are both western and well-of, so actually they are relatively similar. But how would Zen Japan, which exists in harmony with nature, think of climate change? Or developing China, which is being blamed of causing climate change? Or Sudan, Somalia and South Africa, which are highly dependent on nature, and therefore highly affected by climate change? Furthermore, due to time, place and space restrictions, the regarding research has reduced discourse to media discourse and public discourse. However, political discourse is also particularly important when it comes to the construction of climate change. Although it is an evident element of both media discourse and public discourse, and so it filters through this thesis, one can also treat political discourse as a separate strand of discourse, which constructs and is constructed by media discourse and political discourse. Hence, I recommend future researchers to deal with discourse in a threesome, instead of the safe, standard twofold.

Apart from recommendations for future research, I’d like to introduce some suggestions for the media, the public, the US and the Netherlands as well. Acting on the concerning conclusions, one can wonder: what now? What about the US media discourse, US public discourse, Dutch media discourse and Dutch public discourse on climate change? What are the risks? What are the perspectives? First of all, the US media ooze out an atmosphere of hope and activeness, which is generally regarded a good thing. Goed voorbeeld doet goed volgen. That is, in terms of the US public, but the rest of the world as well. Well, it worked, for the US public is equally enthusiastic, and the rest of the world waits for the US to take the lead in combating climate change. But except for faith towards the US, the Netherlands hasn’t taken over their effective atmosphere of activeness. However, one could claim that perhaps the US is too active. Perhaps the US should think, before it speaks. Perhaps Obama should first figure out whether he really, surely, genuinely can combat climate change, before he simply says, yes, he can. On the other hand, the Netherlands oozes out an atmosphere of pessimism and passiveness, which is another extreme, that is perhaps, no probably even worse. The Dutch media, that is the Duyvendaks and van Dierens, offer some resistance, but the Dutch public isn’t impressed. How come? How come the US media succeed to stimulate the US public and how come the Dutch media can criticise all they want, while the Dutch public simply shrugs and smiles. Perhaps the Dutch media think too big, compared to their teeny tiny country. Perhaps they value the Dutch device freedom of speech too much, while the Dutch public is sick, tired and traumatised, regarding everything that has happened to those who did indeed spoke their mind. Besides, one could contemplate that the Netherlands lacks the crucial connection between politics and the public. Dutch politics is based on rules to reduce controversy and control society, but there is more to life than rules.

Take a look at American politics, which is based on events, accedes the unexpected and complexity within society and thereby appeals to the public. Climate change typically consists of events. However, Dutch politics sees it as something that is out of our hands, something that befalls on us, and so something that must be regulated, through sincere and secure subsidizations for “spaarlampen” and solar power. A politics of events would have stopped at the first pole of Eneco’s new power plant or Shell’s cease from investing in sustainable energy. Or anything to make climate change more concrete.

It is a darn drudgery to exactly explain why the US is so dynamic and enthusiastic and the Netherlands is so numb and reserved when it comes to climate change, and so I invite future researchers to definitely do so.


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Internet Resources

European Journalism Centre
IPCC (Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report)
Kyoto Protocol


Appendix I: The New York Times & De Volkskrant Newspaper Articles Page 87

Appendix II: Requests Berkeley University & Erasmus University Page 135

Appendix III: Semi-structured Interview Schedule Page 137

Appendix IV: Interview Berkeley University Students Page 140

Appendix V: Interview Erasmus University Students Page 144

Appendix I

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