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Keywords:

  • nuclear energy;
  • media framing;
  • content analysis;
  • global climate change

Abstract

Nuclear energy has received substantial recent attention, marketed as a ‘green’ solution to global climate change (GCC) with calls for new reactors. However, considerable debate exists about whether it represents a viable solution to GCC. Given the complexity and urgency of the issue, a full and balanced debate is desirable. Since media play an important role in shaping public perception, we examined print media coverage of proposed reactors in Georgia—one site in the southeastern United States, which has been the focus of such proposals. We analysed the content of editorials and news articles from two local newspapers—the Augusta Chronicle and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The former exclusively published pro-nuclear opinion pieces whereas the latter published a mix of pro- and anti-nuclear opinions. The majority of news articles in both newspapers generally presented balanced arguments. Pro- and anti-nuclear arguments most often reflected economic and environmental benefits and risks, whereas informational text primarily detailed regulatory processes and financing. Findings suggested that informational text was not necessarily ‘neutral’, sometimes masking covert pro- and anti-nuclear content. Implications for how findings might shape public opinion and strategies for shaping media and extending public deliberation are discussed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.