Reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to the Republic of Ireland: A case study of media coverage

Brian J. Burke, Aibhlin Finna, David T. Flanagan, Danielle M. Fogarty, Maeve Foran, John D. O’Sullivan, Shaun A. Smith, John D. C. Linnell, Barry J. McMahon


Media can be important in the success or failure of conservation projects. This study examined newspaper coverage of the white-tailed eagle reintroduction to the Republic of Ireland to examine public awareness and attitudes towards the project, and the resultant influence on changes to national legislation and the likely success of the project in the future. National, local newspaper and a special-interest farming newspaper articles, from 2007-2011, were categorised as ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘ambiguous’ according to their portrayal of eagles. Media coverage in terms of the number and valence of articles published is discussed in the context of key events during the study period, namely poisoning incidents, increased stakeholder engagement and changes to national legislation. The eagles received considerable newspaper coverage: most articles were in 2007, the first year of white-tailed eagle reintroduction, and 2010, when the issue of poisoning was finally addressed in Irish legislation. Articles were mostly positive while project staff engaged with media throughout the study period providing updates, condemning poisonings and responding to misinformation published. The future prospects for the project seemed positive, with appropriate newspaper coverage and information relating to legislative changes to benefit white-tailed eagles and several other species.

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