In this report from the Activism Research Hub, Dr. Gulliver provides an analysis of Australian mainstream media coverage of climate protests and activists in 2019. In particular showing a comparison between media coverage of Extinction Rebellion, School Strike for Climate, and Stop Adani campaigns.
Why does media coverage matter?
Despite the proliferation of online social media channels and outlets, much of what we see about environmental protests is relayed to us through mainstream media. Major print and broadcast channels both report on news and add commentary through their opinion pieces and well-known columnists or media personalities.
What we learn about protest, and how our opinions are formed about protest, often depends on how the media frame these actions. But how does media portray activists? Do they link activism with the climate crisis? And does this change depending on who the activists are, or where the activism is happening?
What does this media analysis report include?
In this report from the Activism Research Hub, Dr Gulliver looks at how the Australia media covered three sets of protests: Extinction Rebellion’s Rebellion Week (October 2019), School Strike for Climate (September 2019) and the ongoing Stop Adani (2017-2019) campaign. The report identifies the coverage generated by Rebellion Week and SS4C, assesses whether media coverage differed in its focus and sentiment between the two campaigns, and compares this coverage with the media-generated over a longer time period on the Stop Adani campaign.
This coverage was provided as part of a larger project looking at how the media covered the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis, with a list of media obtained from a media outlet company. The report includes graphs presenting the results each of these questions, summarises the findings and highlights some limitations and considerations regarding the data.
Each media article was analysed through a range of different software programs, looking at the following key questions:
- Q1. What coverage was generated during Rebellion Week 2019 and which State generated the most media attention?
- Q2a. What were the most common headlines?
- Q2b: What were the most common topics?
- Q2c: What were the most common media sources?
- MEDIA REACH
- Q3a. What topics had the greatest media reach and what sentiments were conveyed?
- Q3b. How did reach and sentiment differ across Australia?
- MEDIA BIAS
- Q4a: What was the influence of media bias on sentiment?
- Q4b: What was the influence of media bias on sentiment over time?
- Q5a. What were the key themes the media focused on?
- Q5b: What was the sentiment associated with these themes?
- Q6. What kind of words were most commonly used in media reporting?
- REFLECTION AND SUMMARY
- Q7. What does all this mean?
What were the findings from the analysis?
In total, four main findings were identified. First, both the Extinction Rebellion and SS4C protests generated substantial, widespread coverage across all platforms and channels, reaching hundreds of thousands of people with articles syndicated across the country.
- Extinction Rebellion coverage focused on the protesters, arrests and disruptive actions, primarily with a negative sentiment.
- SS4C coverage focused on students and the strike itself, primarily with a neutral sentiment.
- Stop Adani coverage focused on coal, Queensland and Stop Adani groups. Second, within this coverage, the protests were connected with the issue of climate change. This indicates that the media was often able to link activism with messages about the climate crisis.
However, two main concerns were also identified. Coverage appeared to be often dictated by other considerations, such as media channels’ partisan leanings or a preference for conveying protests as inconvenient or disruptive. In addition, much media coverage perpetuated negative stereotypes and tropes about activists, particularly media on Extinction Rebellion protests. This coverage was often negative and painted activists as stereotypes, as opposed to coverage of SS4C which received more neutral coverage which relayed the hopes and concerns of young strikers.
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- Climate action
- Climate change
- Movements_Campaigns - Anti mining - Adani (Coal mine)
- Movements_Campaigns - Climate action and justice
- Movements_Campaigns - Climate action and Justice - Extinction Rebellion
- Movements_Campaigns - Climate action and justice - School Strike for Climate SS4C
- Social media