First Advisor

Veronica Dujon

Date of Publication

Summer 9-30-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Sociology






Mass media -- Influence, Petroleum pipelines -- Press coverage -- United States, Oil sands -- Press coverage -- United States, Climatic changes -- Press coverage -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 80 pages)


The overwhelming consensus of the world's climate scientists is that we must rapidly reduce our greenhouse emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate change. Yet the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil that emits three to four times the carbon emissions of conventional gasoline across the U.S., is supported by a solid majority of Americans. This level of support for a project a proposal that would dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions, pollute sensitive lands and water sources, and threaten the health and safety of communities along the way begs the question: what kind of information have Americans received about the pipeline?

Relying on theoretical perspectives developed by scholars who examine power structures, ideology, and the political economy of the mass media, I analyze 177 national network and cable news broadcasts in order to determine what kind of information leading media sources provide to the public about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal and the context in which this information is presented. Content analysis of broadcast transcripts reveals that television news stations exhibit biased coverage that encourages viewers to support pipeline construction. Furthermore, television news stations marginalize environmental and social concerns and disproportionately rely on business and government sources for information. Finally, the dominant frame employed by the news media is informed by neoliberal ideology and offers no challenge to the preferences of corporate and government elites--including the continued dominance of the fossil fuel industry. This type of coverage affords viewers a very limited basis for understanding the environmental and ultimately social threats posed by Keystone XL.


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