Chapter 5: Mediating the Environment
In the preceding chapters, I discussed how photographs have come to be accepted as vital and powerful evidence for communicating a range of social issues such as poverty, human rights, social inequities, and preservation of land and nature. The aim of this chapter is to consider how mediated messages shape our perceptions of the environment. I begin this chapter with a review of the environment in mainstream news and focus discussion broadly on four major areas: cyclical and sporadic news coverage, balanced reporting, over-reliance on elite and government sources, and news frames. Indeed, there is a great deal of literature on each topic in its own right. Others have done well to effectively show that since the 1960s the news media have not accurately conveyed information in the appropriate context to the public at large. Here the purpose is to introduce key studies from this body of literature to show how environmental issues have been depicted in the mainstream news and that consequently a dominant ideology is perpetuated that downplays environmental threats and adds more controversy and uncertainty regarding the reality of environmental issues. In the rest of the chapter, I focus attention on visual representations of the environment from symbolic and iconic imagery to images of spectacle and fear.
Before the 1960s, environmentalism mostly became known because of photographers, conservationists, and some in government advocating for preservation of land and spaces. Rachel Carson’s appearance on CBS Reports in 1963 marked the first mass-media...
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