Knight Center doctoral student Ran Duan presented a study at the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication examining climate change images in U.S. newspapers.
The study, titled “A construal-level perspective of climate change images in U.S. print newspapers,” was co-authored with Knight Center research director Bruno Takahashi and Knight Center affiliated faculty member Adam Zwickle.
The authors conducted a content analysis of 635 news images in climate change stories during 2012 and 2015 to examine their levels of abstraction. The results show, contrary to expectations, that climate change has been visually portrayed as a relatively concrete rather than abstract issue and has been mostly portrayed with a high level of specificity. In particular, USA Today visually covered the issue as most concrete, followed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Human-themed images were the most concrete, compared to nature-themed and industry-themed images.
The findings suggest that journalists reporting on climate change should use more pictures of ordinary citizens and more human-themed images to enhance the concreteness of the issue presented in the media. The findings also offer practical implications to climate change journalists and educators who wish to advocate the urgency of the issue using effective visual communication strategies.
Takahashi also co-authored a paper titled “Bias against bias: How Fox News covered Pope Francis’ climate change stance.” The study analyzed the transcripts of talk shows on a conservative news network that discussed the Laudato Si encyclical on climate change that Pope Francis published in May 2015.
The study identified a series of strategies used by Fox News hosts and reporters to make sense of the pope’s position on climate change, which is contrary to the network’s position. These strategies include the use of proxies (such as guests) to indirectly criticize the pope, and issue diversion, which includes discussion of other topics to avoid the topic of climate change. The study was co-authored with Edson Tandoc from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore