Scale and the construction of environmental imaginaries in local news

Mary Lawhon*, Joseph Pierce, Roy Bouwer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental imaginaries are shaped by a range of influences, including the media. While most analyses of the effects of environmental media coverage focus on national- and international-scale news outlets, local-scale outlets continue to be important: in some cases, they are the most commonly read news sources. We suggest that the role of local news in is particularly significant where local environmental imaginations diverge from global discourses. Mindful of the challenges of defining environmental media, we outline some of the potential implications of the distinctive properties of local environmental news coverage. We then explore the dissonance between global and a specific local environmental imaginary through a case study of community newspaper coverage in Boksburg, Gauteng, South Africa. Our analysis shows a strong focus on so-called ‘brown’ issues, including concerns with pollution, water and electricity, in contrast to studies at other scales; when included, ‘green’ issues are often presented idiosyncratically. In follow-up focus groups, local residents indicate that local environmental reporting resonates more with their own environmental imaginary than national or international scales of news sources. This disjuncture between local and global imaginaries has significant theoretical and political implications, warranting further investigation of local newspapers and environmental imaginaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalSouth African Geographical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date24 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Urban Studies Foundation.


  • environmental imaginary
  • Environmental media
  • locality
  • scale
  • South Africa


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