Media coverage of climate change in Namibia and South Africa: A comparative study of newspaper reports from October 2018 to April 2019
Keywords:coverage, newspapers, linguistic repertoires, Namibia, South Africa, thematic frames, climate change
Climate change is among the global issues that have permeated the media agenda, yet studies on climate crises have mostly focused on Western media. Less in-depth analysis has been conducted in developing countries that are extremely subject to climate change and where awareness and adaptation will be more pressing than reducing emissions. This study presents a comparative content analysis of newspaper coverage of climate change in southern Africa from October 2018 to April 2019; a critical period when significant events conjoined to raise the need to tackle climate breakdown globally. The analysis included 108 newspaper articles published in English by news media in Namibia and South Africa that have a significant influence on policymakers and present global and local coverage of climate change. The assessment included news articles from The Namibian, Windhoek Observer, Cape Argus, and Sunday Times. Data were collected and analysed using content discourse analysis. The study found that articles are frequently sourced from foreign news agencies. Significant international and local events like Cyclone Idai and the United Nations Climate Change Conferences (COP24 – Katowice) strongly influenced the reporting of climate change in southern Africa, and dominant climate change thematic frames and linguistic repertoires were used to discuss the climate crises. The discussions of global warming were framed around public opinion (civil/protest) while small actions and alarmist were mostly used as linguistic repertoires in reporting climate change. The causes and effects of climate change are discussed with alarm, while mitigations and measures are reported as small actions. Reporters frequently used adjectives such as no tomorrow, extinction, and heatwaves to warm the public about the severity of climate change. The study strongly suggests a need for reporters to widen local report sourcing and to strike a balance in framing climate change news while not undermining the seriousness of global warming. It is important to balance warning journalists about alarmist reporting and not underestimating the severity of climate change. Journalists and editors who are trained in environmental journalism may better report on climate change.
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