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Journalist’s fear production: Consequences for society
Södertörn University, School of Culture and Education, Media and Communication Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1443-6537
2015 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

We know from research that news media create their preferred meanings of environmental issues, from the angle of problems and dangers (e.g. Roll-Hansen 2014, Foust, C. R. & O'Shannon Murphy, W., 2009). While some environmental events are associated with drama such as earthquakes, most of environmental phenomena are rather invisible such as the thinning of Earth’s protective ozone layer (Hansen 2010, 95). Also the time scale of most environmental issues does not fit to 24-hours news making such as climate change. It needs a great deal of journalistic work to make such phenomena visible. Hence, to fit in to conventional news format, mainstream media “over-report the risks generating by acute crises” (Allan de. 2000, in Cox 2013, 167).This paper discusses the consequences of news media’s coverage of environmental issues as threats and dangers. Fear has emerged as a framework for engaging in ecological issues. Danger and fear are perceived as a central feature of our environment. We take it for granted that our physical environment is in danger, something we are afraid of. Fear cannot be forbidden or scholarly falsified, and is therefore not contested in social communication (Luhmann 1989). Fear is just there.The constant concern about risks and dangers leads to the impression that nothing is harmless and all is contaminated. It promotes a sense of disorder and a belief that things are out of control (Luhmann, 1989, 189). It reproduces itself and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (Altheide, 2002, 189. The problem lies less in the psychical reality of fear and anxiety but in the communicative actuality in society. “If anxiety is communicated but not contested in the communication, it acquires a moral existence” (Luhmann, 1989, 130). Those who  uses this frame is morally in the right.  “It becomes a duty to worry, and a right to expect participation in fears and to require standards for defense against danger. Those who worries… become warner with all risks that it implies” (Luhmann, 1989, 130). It implies, for instance, for scientific arguments that they are in a difficult position when arguing against anxiety-related issues. It implies also that the fear frame does not allow for the arguing of any progress that possibly has been made concerning environmental issues. In this way, environmental communication is infused with morality, based on fear and/or anxiety frame and, hence, it makes it difficult for controversies. However, only the future can show whether the fear has been justified.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Media and Communications
Research subject
Environmental Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-28765OAI: diva2:872398
Consuming the environment. International conference, Gävle, 26-27 November 2015
Available from: 2015-11-18 Created: 2015-11-18 Last updated: 2016-10-04Bibliographically approved

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