The Portrayal of Forest Certification in National and State Newspapers of the United States

Forest Policy and Economics.

Abstract: Forest certification has emerged as a market-based tool to safeguard the sustainability of the world’s forests. Since media can shape public opinion, this study examines media treatment of forest certification in the United States, the world’s largest producer and consumer of forest products. This study utilizes 309 print and digital newspaper articles published in the United States between 1989 and 2019 to evaluate which aspects of certification are highlighted, which standards are favored, and how these vary by region. We found that coverage of forest certification is overwhelmingly positive at both the regional (85%) and national (90.7%) levels. Environmental themes are most discussed nationally (48.8%) and regionally (36%), but thematic emphasis differs regionally. Although the Forest Steward Council is the most covered certification scheme at the national level, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative certification scheme prevails in southern media outlets. The focus of articles related to the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) is mostly sociocultural. This was expected as the ATFS focuses on certifying forestlands of family forest landowners in the United States. Our findings suggest newspaper coverage of forest certification is geographically heterogeneous, with regions establishing their preferred themes and schemes. This research will better situate forest certification as a tool for sustainable forest management in the United States.

Alexander Pfeuffer 

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