Antal Wozniak, Hartmut Wessler, Chung-hong Chan, Julia Lück
The Event-Centered Nature of Global Public Spheres: The UN Climate Change Conferences, Fridays for Future, and the (Limited) Transnationalization of Media Debates

International Journal of Communication, 2021: 15, pp. 688–714
ISSN: 1932-8036

Research has shown how unpremeditated events can influence media attention and media framing. But how do staged political events influence patterns of news coverage across countries, and are such changes sustainable beyond the immediate event context? We examined whether the UN climate change conferences are conducive to an emergence of a transnational public sphere by triggering issue convergence and increased transnational interconnectedness across national media debates. An automated content analysis of climate change coverage in newspapers from Germany, India, South Africa, and the United States between 2012 and 2019 revealed largely event-focused reporting. Media coverage quickly returned to preconference patterns after each conference. References to foreign countries showed almost no relationship to the climate change conferences’ coverage. We found similar results for the effects of the Fridays for Future movement. The significance of these events lies less in long-term changes in media reporting but more in short-term attention generation and coordinated message production.