Power, discourse, and news media: Examining Canada’s GM alfalfa protests

Tourangeau, Wesley (2018) Power, discourse, and news media: Examining Canada’s GM alfalfa protests. Geoforum, 91 . pp. 117-126. ISSN 0016-7185

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.02.024

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Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


The ‘Day of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa’ was a Canada-wide protest that took place in 38 different cities on April 9th, 2013. Organized by a coalition of farmers and activists, these rallies protested potentially adverse impacts to markets, the environment, and society, and were picked up by news media outlets across the country. Despite the protestors’ focus on a range of concerns, news outlets tended to cover particular issues, such as economic and market impacts while broader social, political, and environmental issues received only peripheral attention. This article contributes to literature on GMO protests and media analyses by offering an explanation for the news media’s focus on economic over other concerns, and the power relations embedded in this focus. Based on a discourse analysis of 88 news reports on GM alfalfa published over a four year period, this article identifies under-acknowledged power relations that influence (largely inadvertently) the direction of reporting. Specifically, GM alfalfa news coverage is influenced in two key ways: (1) news values and media culture shape the report writing and editing process, privileging ‘newsworthy’ topics while side-lining others; and (2) neoliberal normative assumptions act as underlying hegemonic discourses that re-embed dominant knowledges—common sense values and assumptions regarding market mechanisms and privatization go unnoticed, or at least uncriticized.

Keywords:power, discourse, news media, GMOs, protest, neoliberalism, GM alfalfa
Subjects:L Social studies > L727 Agricultural Geography
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:46534
Deposited On:13 Oct 2021 14:18

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