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Narrative Trumps Reality: A Narrative Paradigm Approach to the Mainstream Media’s Coverage of Climate Change Preceding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Faculty Supervisor:
Mallory Marsh and John McCabe-Juhnke
Year of Project Completion:
Jacob Andrew Miller


We are now on the brink of inescapable damage to our planetary life support systems, due in large part to human-induced climate change. Under the umbrella term “climate change”—which is commonly measured via increases in carbon dioxide emissions—exists a host of environmental catastrophes that include soil erosion, deforestation, chemical runoff, land desecration, fossil fuel depletion, ocean acidification, extinction of non-human species, and so on. Meanwhile, on November 8, 2016, the United States of America elected Donald Trump to be their next President. Trump once said, “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Trump’s stances on climate change fly in the face of nearly all scientific data published in peer-reviewed journals, highlighting the power narrative can have over scientific fact. This study utilizes Walter Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm (NP) (1984), which views humans as “storytelling animals” and sees narrative as a powerful ontological way of rationality for human beings. NP maintains two lenses of rationality: narrative probability and narrative fidelity. Through a NP lens I interrogate nine mainstream articles from USA Today and The New York Times published exactly one month prior to the election. The articles relate to the climate change stances of Trump and Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Finally, implications are discussed.

Related file

Jacob Miller COA Seminar.docx

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.