The production of environmental news : a study of source-media relations
This study analyses the production of environmental news and focuses upon the neglected area of source-media relations. Through a combination of in-depth, semi-structured interviews and content analysis, the study explores relations between media practitioners and key news sources, such as environmental pressure groups, related interest groups, scientists and the Department of the Environment. It suggests that a major lacuna exists within the analysis of source-media relations. Researchers have, until recently, adopted a media-centric position and have rarely considered the perceptions of the sources themselves. This thesis, then, fills an important gap in the literature. It argues that through largely focusing upon the ways in which media make use of sources, the sociology of mass communications has ignored a fundamental aspect of news production. The hypothesis that environmental pressure groups are becoming increasingly adept in their approaches towards the media was supported by the research findings. Many of the campaigning pressure groups that were formed in the 1970s have become established news sources and key definers of the political agenda. During the late 1980s many environmental pressure groups experienced greater access to television and the press. This thesis highlights a number of weaknesses with the structuralist model of source-dependency which maintains that official sources such as government or the courts, co=and privileged access to the media by virtue of their representative status, institutional standing, or their claims to expert knowledge. It suggests that a new model of source-media relations needs to be developed. While official sources tend to gam greater access to the media than non-official sources such as pressure groups, the evidence suggests that this observation needs to be qualified in a number of respects. First, this study indicates that it fails to take into account inequalities of access among 'accredited sources'. Second, it neglects the role of the media as definers in the agenda-setting process. Third, the structuralist model fails to analyse the varying degrees with which media practitioners judge the claims of 'primary definers'. The study indicates that journalists and broadcasters tend to view Friends of the Earth as more credible than Greenpeace. Finally, this thesis indicates that evidence about patterns of source-dependence deduced from content analysis or journalistic evidence needs to be supplemented by interviews with the sources themselves.