Political Animals published
Newspapers have long been enthralled by accounts of cute, cuddly, strange, dangerous and endangered beasts, and by extraordinary and sometimes apocryphal narratives of natural phenomena. This study explores the incidence of several such stories in the British press: from reports of the “ethnic” conflicts between different species of squirrel to the tragedy of Cecil the slaughtered Zimbabwean lion. It takes in, along the way, the celebrity of Knut the polar bear, the Tamworth Two and the Exmoor Emperor. It surveys the media representation of the natural landscape from the crocodile-infested reaches of the River Thames out as far as the bleak wastes of the former planet Pluto. In doing so, and in conversation with reporters and players in these tales, it investigates the political subtexts and social meanings of such stories, and seeks thereby to reveal the real value of such soft, sentimental and sometimes silly news.
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Alec Charles is Head of Media at the University of Chester and co-convenor of the Political Studies Association’s Media & Politics Group. He has previously taught at universities in Japan, Eastern Europe, Cornwall and Luton, has worked as a print journalist, and has made cultural documentaries for BBC Radio 3. He is the author of Interactivity: New Media, Politics & Society, Interactivity 2 and Out of Time: The Deaths & Resurrections of Doctor Who. He is co-editor of The End of Journalism, and editor of Media in the Enlarged Europe, Media/Democracy and The End of Journalism 2.