Thesis subject

The role of media in the debates about nature conservation

We are looking for a student that is interested in the role of journalism and news media in policy developments. Nature conservation policy is used as a case to analyse which perspectives and opinions have been presented in the media and to what extent these reflect the wider diversity of perspectives and opinions.

In the past decade EU national conservation directives, often labelled Natura 2000, have left their mark on the public discussions about nature conservation policies and practices. Ever since the possible presence of a Hamster delayed the development of a business park in Heerlen, news media have been obsessed with little creatures that frustrate planned developments. Local, regional and national newspapers regularly reported on yet another road, business park or other spatial project that was annulled in court because of a hamster, toad, or lizard. Articles in newspapers have not only presented an overview of the different opinions about these developments, but also shaped the direction that the discussion about nature conservation took (Beunen et al, 2013). What started as a surprise, led to a severe amount of critiques and a revision of nature conservation policies, after which much of the critique faded out.

The aim of this study is to further unravel the role journalism and news media play in policy developments, with a particular focus on nature conservation policy. It aim to provide further insights in which perspectives and whose opinions have been given a place in different newspapers, how this has changed over time, and how it relates to policy developments. The study can build on an existing MSc thesis that found very interesting differences between the ideas and opinions presented in regional media and those found in national newspapers.


Beunen, R., Van Assche, K., & Duineveld, M. (2013). Performing failure in conservation policy: The implementation of European Union directives in the Netherlands. Land Use Policy, 31, 280-288.


September 2017