The rise and fall of the now-cancelled Pacific NorthWest Liquified Natural Gas project made headlines in western Canada from the time it first entered the public’s awareness in 2013 until well after its cancellation in 2017 – but what you know about the project could depend on the news publication where you read about it.
A comparative analysis by professional communication professor Sibo Chen about the British Columbia-based project and its opposition demonstrates some of the mainstream media’s blind spots and some of the alternative media’s strengths, particularly when it comes to coverage of topics like energy and the environment.
Professor Chen compared six media outlets: the CBC, the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, the National Post, the Tyee and Canada’s National Observer. He tracked the narratives told about the LNG project and the protestors’ objections through hundreds of news articles and opinion pieces published over a 36-month period and shared his findings in Frontiers in Communication. He found that often the mainstream media studied – the CBC, Globe, Sun and Post – primarily positioned articles and opinion columns as a jobs versus environment story. In contrast, the alternative media outlets – the Tyee and National Observer – gave more nuanced coverage to the concerns brought forward by the opponents of the project.