Professional boundaries in climate journalism : Journalists and NGOs during Swedish media coverage of COP25

University essay from Södertörns högskola/Journalistik

Abstract: Climate change was the most covered issue in the media in Sweden during 2019 and the use of terms such as “climate emergency” and “climate crisis” increased significantly (Vi-skogen, 2020). These developments and the climate issue pose questions of future practices and purpose of journalism and therefore also its professional boundaries, not the least towards other social actors and institutions. This study focuses on journalists professional boundaries with their sources, specifically non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Environmental NGOs play an important role in climate- and international politics, such as for instance in the setting of United Nations’ climate summits (COPs), and are themselves engaged in producing public information (Powers, 2015b; Wozniak et al. 2017). The study therefore explores journalists’ conceptions of NGOs for climate journalism and these organizations’ roles in the climate reporting during COP25 in Madrid. It uses a theory of boundary work in journalism and applies a methodology of online interviews with journalists from Swedish national news organizations and with two representatives from environmental NGOs based in Sweden. The findings demonstrate four overlapping roles of NGOs in climate journalism based on the practices and views of the participating journalists: dependency; established source; partnering watchdog; and agenda-driven player. It further concludes that the climate issue and COP25 offer a context for blurred boundaries between the two actors, however, it is limited as journalists maintain control over NGOs’ participation in the news making process. 

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