Resource
Constructing the Ring of Fire: The Journalist’s Story

Graduate thesis by Logan Turner

April 2021

Abstract

Situated deep in the homelands of First Nations in Treaty 9 territory in the James Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario, the Ring of Fire is a mineral-rich area discovered in 2007 and quickly declared by politicians and mining companies as Canada’s “next oilsands” and “the most promising mineral development opportunity in Ontario in over a century.” These bold declarations have been repeated over and again by political and economic actors, often without critical interrogation by journalists reporting on the mineral discovery. This begs the research question: how does the news media shape and construct the understanding of natural resource extraction projects within the Canadian context? Set within a complex web of competing claim-makers in the resource periphery of northern Ontario, this thesis conducts a content analysis of digital news stories published about the Ring of Fire by the publicly funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation between 2010 and 2018. The research finds that overwhelmingly the Ring of Fire is constructed by journalists as an economic opportunity promising jobs, increased access to transportation and improvement of quality of life for Indigenous and non-Indigenous inhabitants of the area, and a project dependent on political action. But this is the picture painted largely by male, non-Indigenous, political or economic elites, as the major sources quoted in coverage largely driven by political and economic events, announcements and activities, as opposed to original, critical journalism. This relative lack of diverse perspectives, sources and drivers of coverage raises difficult questions for Canadian journalists reporting on a divisive industry with social, health, economic, ecological and legal implications. It pushes practicing journalists to re-consider how their coverage constructs the public imaginary of place, natural resources, and resource peripheries in Canada.

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