Public-interest journalism on a post-abundance planet

Green media? A comparative analysis of UK news-media organisation to understand their approach to economic, environmental and social sustainability

This ‘green media’ PhD will increase our understanding of the conditions for survival of something we may believe to be a vital public service – news media.

At its widest, it examines the economic, environmental and social, assessing a key tension in the literature – between economic and environmental sustainability.

Though managing environmental impact may be seen as ‘business as usual’ (Responsible Media Forum, 2018) and, compared to something like aviation, the news media may have a relatively small ‘footprint’ (Gartner, 2007), news isn’t weightless (Fuchs, 2008).

The UK’s Climate Change Committee said “most sectors will need to reduce emissions close to zero without offsetting” (2019) – but even the industry-leading Guardian won’t meet that. News media, like the UK government, may not take responsibility for varied, historical impacts, but they remain.

As the news media is considered to have a unique responsibility (Olknonnen, 2015; 2018) – its “brain-print” (SustainAbility and WWF-UK, 2004), or potential effect on audiences – this study will offer a contribution to academia and industry by attempting to evidence this, through a combined analysis of organisational, commercial and editorial outputs.

For audiences, what happens if news speaks of progress in terms of growth, if you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet, when climate news is funded with SUV sales, or it comes through devices embedded with harm?

Supported by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, this PhD offers an opportunity for global industry impact. This will be achieved through an industry report based on the research findings, along with events, a number of which have already taken place, such as the After COP26 – what’s next for ‘green media’? panel, at the World News Media Congress in November 2021.

It ultimately asks – if journalism is essential, is it ‘sustainable’?

PhD candidate: Kirsty Styles

Director of Studies: Dr François Nel

Supervisory team: Dr John Law, John Mills

Partners: World Association of News Publishers / Global Alliance for Media Innovation

Funder: Global Allicance for Media Innovation