Voices for Change

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Abstract

Three activists have played key roles in recent climate activism in the UK: Greta Thunberg, Dara McAnulty, and Chris Packham. Through qualitative content analysis of popular news coverage, this study explores the messages conveyed about these activists and the social inequities prevalent in media portrayals of activism more broadly. The analysis revealed that while there was content explaining and defining the causes championed by these activists, it was often overshadowed by subject-centric portrayals. The news coverage tended to emphasize the agency and influence of these individuals, while also placing undue focus on their various identity constructs. The coverage also adopted personalized and sensationalized writing strategies. Although this news coverage offered a more inclusive representation of activists in terms of disability, age, and gender, it simultaneously reinforced stereotypes, prejudice, and the authority of White, middle- to upper-class activists from the global North. These findings highlight tensions between reinforcing and challenging the privileged few who are typically allowed to represent and capture public attention and action on pressing issues.