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It is Not Easy Being Green: Framing of the Alberta Oil Sands by Canada's National Newspapers

1 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 4 Sep 2009

Laura Way

Political Science, Carleton University; Political Science, University of Alberta

Date Written: 2009


With heightened public awareness of global warming, environmental reporting appeared to be back in vogue or was it‘ Studies of media coverage tend to examine how an environmental issue or conflict is being portrayed rather than how the media depicts the natural resource in its entirety (e.g., Hessing, 2003). Just because newspapers print a larger number of stories about the environment does not mean they are going “green.” Greater attention needs to be paid to the extent to which the media applies a “green” frame to their overall portrayal of a natural resource. This study investigates the degree that the environmental frame diverged from the economic frame by examining the Globe and Mail’s and the National Post’s portrayal of oil sands development. I used content and discourse analysis to code stories over 300 words in length with “oil sands” or “tar sands” in the lead paragraph and/or headline over a 25-month period. My findings show that the national newspapers constructed environmental stories differently than economic ones not only in subject matter but also in how the stories were told. However, the economic frame, which privileges corporate oil sands interests, clearly dominated - 76% of all stories are written using an economic frame compared with 11% from an environmental frame. Business interests were also strongly represented within environmentally-framed stories about the oil sands.

Keywords: oil sands, tar sands, media, environmental frame, economic frame

Suggested Citation

Way, Laura, It is Not Easy Being Green: Framing of the Alberta Oil Sands by Canada's National Newspapers (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Laura Way (Contact Author)

Political Science, Carleton University ( email )

Ottawa, Ontario

Political Science, University of Alberta ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta

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