oa Global Media Journal - African Edition - Environmental NGOs as news sources : a sociological approach to the study of environmental journalism in South Africa

Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2073-2740



The interconnectivity between climate change and critical economic, agricultural and social matters presents challenges in communicating the complexity and urgency of dealing with climate change. Commentators have criticised environmental journalism in Africa for its superficiality, inaccuracy and disassociation from broader developmental issues (Wasserman, 2012), thus generating a call for better communication that shapes adequately informed and pro-active African citizens. A precursor to a study on the interaction between the media and non-governmental news sources, this article argues that attempts to address the media's shortcomings should begin with a closer assessment of the politics of representation within mass media coverage of climate change. Beginning with an exploration of the literature on environmental organizations and the media, it shows that a media-centric approach dominates the study of news source strategies. As a result, this method emphasizes the impact of journalistic norms on news coverage by highlighting the dominant access of official news sources to news media. In so doing, the influence, or lack thereof, of the politically marginalized is neglected. In an attempt to bridge this gap, this article puts forward a framework which integrates concepts of journalistic norms and values with social constructionist views. Through this approach, environmental NGOs will be viewed as participants in the construction of climate change news circumscribed by social and political factors which determine their strategies and the extent to which they can enjoy media access.

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