Moment of Hope, Mode of Realism: On the Dynamics of a Transnational Journalistic Field During UN Climate Change Summits

Risto Kunelius, Elisabeth Eide


Taking the global climate-change summits (the COP process and particularly the Copenhagen 2009 COP15 summit) as a point of departure, this article looks at the dynamics of a momentarily articulated transnational journalistic field. Based on a comparative study of summit coverage across the world, the article identifies two broad positions shared by many journalists and newspapers. On one hand, journalists took an active part in constructing and mediating a normatively based, cosmopolitan discourse that demanded a conclusive, multilateral agreement. On the other hand, journalism produced a detached and partly nationally grounded discourse of power realism. This article also looks at how these shared and rival positions opened space and opportunities for journalists to criticize and scrutinize their domestic political actors on the issue of climate change. Finally, the study argues that despite its cosmopolitan moments and reflexivity, journalism was part of a potential change of tone in climate-change coverage in which the plausibility of a multilateral agreement and the legitimacy of transnational organizations (such as the UN) may have been seriously undermined, at least in the short run.

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