Environmental Issues in the South African Media: A case study of the Natal Witness

  • M Lawhon
  • R Fincham


Environmental reporting in South Africa has been criticised for its focus on ‘green’ environmental issues. This criticism is rooted in the traditionally elite nature of both the media and environmentalists. However, both, it has been noted, are undergoing transformation. This paper tests the veracity of this assumption of representativeness in the contemporary South African press through a content analysis of key issues and themes and the race and gender of actors in environmental stories in the Natal Witness. The research shows  that this assertion of representativeness does not accurately describe reporting in the Natal Witness. ‘Green’  themes are found in almost half (48%) of the stories, as compared to ‘brown’ themes (17%), ecological  disasters (16%), resource use (5%), environmental ethics (6%) and other themes (8%). Sources and actors tend to be white (72.9%) and men (79.9%). It is outside the parameters of the study to determine whether or not this is representative of the ‘real world’ which is being reported on; the results are intended to be used to raise questions about the perceptions which such stories present to the public.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2411-5959
print ISSN: 1810-0333