Framing the Western Cape water crisis : an analysis of the reporting of five South African publications in 2017 and 2018

Grammer, Hayley (2019-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Western Cape water crisis has been called the worst drought in over one hundred years, with mainstream media coverage being widespread. The media has long-lasting effects on the way in which society understands different events. Framing consists of selecting certain aspects of reality and making them more salient in communicating text; this in turn promotes a particular problem and therefore specific reaction by those who come into contact with the information in question. By understanding how the drought was framed by a selection of South African publications, researchers can identify and critically examine the dominant media messages being communicated to the public, which in turn has the power to influence behaviours and attitudes towards water conservation. Although academic research in the area of framing is extensive, it lacks exploration from within the South African context. This study explores how a selection of five South African publications – namely the Cape Argus, Die Burger, the Cape Times, GroundUp and News24 – framed the Western Cape water crisis. The hypothesis of this study is that the publications favoured a political narrative above a scientific one in their coverage of the drought. Both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in the form of content analyses were employed in order to illustrate the saliency of the drought on the media agenda, as well as which messages readers were being exposed to with regards to the water crisis. The main findings of this study were that a scientific narrative was largely lacking from media coverage of the drought.

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