Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7861-3470

Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia Davis

Second Advisor

Dr. Carrie Freeman

Third Advisor

Dr. Tillman Russell

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Uche Onyebadi

Abstract

This study is grounded in framing theory and combines thematic and interview analyses to explore how Guyana’s four dailies - Guyana Chronicle, Stabroek News, Kaieteur News and Guyana Times - framed Exxon Mobil’s oil discoveries beginning in 2015 through December 2019. Six key themes-economic, socioeconomic, legal, political, environment and sovereignty, emerged across news texts, columns and letters to the editor. The coalescence of economic, legal and governance themes were particularly prominent as journalists framed the oil discoveries as both a panacea for Guyana’s economic transformation and its potential plight based on government’s 2016 Petroleum Agreement. Notwithstanding the low coverage of environmental issues as part of the critical optic of oil exploration, Guyanese journalists are acutely aware of their role in ensuring government and the oil corporations are held accountable. Columnists and letter writers, mainly across the three private dailies, also challenged the legal framework and political governance of the oil contract by repetitively utilizing the attribution of responsibility frame to blame the political administration for its mismanagement of the oil sector. Thus, news coverage and commentary on the oil discoveries converged to establish an engaged public sphere in which the state and its representatives were placed on trial for apparently relinquishing Guyana’s oil wealth to Exxon.

Through in-depth field interviews, Guyanese journalists and editors revealed that they are stymied by a lack of training and access to key sources and informants including state and oil company officials. Concomitantly, state officials also interviewed for this study, perceived the private dailies as agenda-driven. These realities, combined with the neoliberal ethos of newspapers and partisanship, conspire against effective journalism and public information on the oil discoveries. They also create the necessity for deliberate media training and inclusion of journalists to better interpret and communicate the state’s development agenda to citizens. This study recommends increased focus on the coverage of environmental and ecological issues, holding government accountable for transparency in the management of the oil sector, and periodic training of journalists who cover this new sector.

This study represents the nucleus of future studies on Guyana’s ongoing oil development as a new petroleum producer.

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