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Prominent Metaphors in Propositional Journalism about Tasmanian Development

The final speaker in this ANZCA 2017 session is Bill Dodd, whose focus is on 'propositional journalism': journalism that proposes change and assesses possible future solutions and opportunities. This has been suggested as a way to re-engage audiences with democratic processes and might be seen as empowering, but whose ideas are presented and how they are framed in such journalism – that is, who is chosen to be empowered – can also reveal democratic deficits.

Bill addresses this through a case study from Tasmania: here, political discourse has long been proposition-centred, especially in response to questions about the balance between economic development and environmental protection. The political process here has been seen as taking place in a boys club behind closed doors, and this has given rise to oppositional movements, including most prominently the Australian Greens; this has led to calls for a "New Tasmania" in recent years that would be a much more progressive and open place.

Bill examined news coverage by propositional journalism in The Mercury, The Examiner, and ABC Tasmania during 2014, exploring for instance which professions received most coverage. Politicians were most prominent here (36-44%), followed closely by business and industry representatives (~30%). Civil society representatives were far less prominent, (~12%). There was also a strong gender imbalance in favour of male voices, and voices of non-European ethnicity were entirely absent.

Further, the framing of propositions was facilitated especially frequently through navigational metaphors (which is itself often a form of gendering the issue in favour of male actors), nurturing metaphors (especially in relation to the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister to Tasmania), construction metaphors, business and gambling metaphors, and entertainment and show business metaphors.

This shows the relationship between the relative prevalence of specific metaphors and the discussions of what good leadership in Tasmania would look like. One solution would be to pay more attention to the pursuit of internal rather than external goods.