Climate and Sustainability| Dominant Visual Frames in Climate Change News Stories: Implications for Formative Evaluation in Climate Change Campaigns

Stacy Rebich-Hespanha, Ronald E. Rice


We propose a rigorous basis for identifying and assessing visual frames as part of a pre-production phase of formative evaluation for climate change campaigns. We review research on images in climate change communication and examine the role of formative evaluation in communication campaigns in general and climate change campaigns in particular. From 350 images in 200 randomly selected climate change news articles from 1974–2009, manual content analysis generated over 100 highly reliable image themes, and cluster analysis generated 15 dominant visual frames. We discuss possible implications for use of those frames in climate change campaign messages. The dominant visual frames also provide bases for more structured and comprehensive formative evaluation research that could justify use or avoidance of certain visual frames in the pursuit of particular outcomes though communication with specific audiences.


climate change news, images, visual framing, communication campaigns, formative evaluation

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