We wanted to learn more about how the press covers onshore wind. So we got the very clever Sandra Bernick from Imperial College to look at newspaper articles on wind power. She read everything she could find published between the 1st Jan 2011 and the 16th Sept 2016. And then she did the same for fracking coverage, to compare the two. This is what we found out.
We found more news coverage of fracking than wind - 5,398 news articles on wind and 7,393 on fracking. That was probably to be expected, there was a fair bit of news to report about fracking during this period. But as for comment pieces and editorials, the number was about the same for the two technologies - 250 on wind and 279 on fracking.
So, although there was much more news coverage of fracking than there was onshore wind, both technologies received roughly equal attention by commentators. Some people with access to newspaper print clearly like to voice their opinions about onshore wind...
What’s more, when they do voice their opinions, they tend to be negative. Over half the comment pieces about onshore wind were negative - 52% in fact, with 31% neutral and 17% positive.
We also ran a framing analysis - looking at the types of arguments applied for and against the technologies. Wind editorials tended to emphasise the risks with wind. Fracking editorials were more balanced, and they put slightly more emphasis on the positives. For every four times a risk was raised, only one benefit was.
When it came to looking at fracking though, it was the total opposite. We found 139 risk frames and and 206 benefit ones. That’s two in five frames raising risk. We also found that fracking editorials tended to be more balanced in weighing risks and benefits alongside each other. This might come as a surprise to some people. It might also annoy anti-fracking campaigners who’d argue it’s a false balance: if the risks of fracking outweigh the benefits (as they believe), it’s wrong to present them as equal (just as with climate change).
When it came to the arguments made against onshore wind, aesthetic and cultural problems tended to be the ones most frequently used, followed by economic issues or technical problems. But on the benefits side, economic arguments were most often used, followed by environmental ones.
What was most interesting we thought, when comparing the two, was that arguments around energy independence were nowhere to be found in the wind data, even though it was a really common argument used to advocate fracking.
If you want to read Sandra’s full report, clicky clicky!