MJ Alumni Cover Boao Forum in Hainan
18 April 2011
JMSC Summer Programme in Shanghai: Career Discovery in Communications
20 April 2011

“Ecologising” Media Research and Practice at the JMSC

JMSC Associate Professor, Miklos Sukosd, refuses to turn a blind eye to the environmental crisis and looks to make the media more sustainable with his research.

Miklos Sukosd Research Seminar

Sukosd shared his findings on the environmental performance of the media at a well-attended seminar in the Shum Wai Yau Reading Room at the JMSC on April 15.

The seminar attempted to answer the question of whether journalism can contend with “the great narrative of the 21st century” –  climate change, excess waste, shrinking water tables, deforestation, and massive extermination of animal and plant species.

Sukosd began by encouraging journalists to take an ecologically sensitive approach in tackling new media trends.

“Public interest is at the heart of journalism,” he said. “How can we remain blind towards the environment?”

He proceeded with a summary presentation of his research findings. Sukosd’s formula for successfully measuring the environmental performance of the media includes three separate baskets of indicators: media content, the impact on users/the audience and the direct environmental performance of media companies.

Measuring the environmental performance of media content is straightforward.

If the media covers more environmental issues, incorporates environmental frames, and shows ways of improving the environment, then its environmental performance increases.

Sukosd gave the example of a quiz show. Rather than giving away a gas-guzzling SUV or a standard house as a grand prize, the quiz show could award a snazzy small car, a cool bicycle, or a sustainable home with solar roof panels to popularise smart consumption.

User impact could be a result of commercial advertising in the media.

A media company lowers its environmental performance if many audience members buy non-sustainable products and services as a result of commercial marketing. However, both online and traditional media are also used for environmental activism or green-friendly practices. Such user impact increases their environmental performance.

Direct environmental performance ratings measure the ecological footprint of corporate practices – for instance, the ecological footprint of the CNN, BBC or CCTV newsroom. Do media companies use sustainable energy, how do they dispose their e-waste, do they recycle? All this may be taken into account in their environmental impact assessment or annual sustainability reports.

“This is not novel; it’s an application – I’m bringing environmental research concepts into our media field,” Sukosd reflected.

The seminar concluded with a video presentation by JMSC MJ student, Reenita Malhotra, regarding the connection between online media and its massive carbon footprint. Because the large server parks that social media companies use are often powered by coal instead of renewable energy sources, billions of everyday Google searches, Facebook or Youtube activities pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an alarming rate.

Ann Kildahl, the Sustainability Manager at HKU, commented after the seminar: “It was a great example of how people in different areas of the University are using their subject to engage with a wide range of sustainability issues in their research and teaching.”