Animal magnetism

Posted on 25th October 2016

Chester lecturer publishes new book.

Head of the Department of Media at the University of Chester, Dr Alec Charles has published a new book, Political Animals: News of the Natural World.

The book explores the political and social meanings behind news stories about science and nature. It examines way that newspapers represent an apparent ethnic conflict between the UK's populations of red and grey squirrels. It recalls reporters' tales of a crocodile, waiting - like the spectre of terrorism itself - beneath the surface of the River Thames to threaten London's 2012 Olympics. It looks at how the 2015 story of the slaughter of Cecil the Zimbabwean Lion by a rich American dentist reflected public concerns about economic suffering and social injustice - from the plight of Syrian refugees to the killings of African-Americans at the hands of U.S. police officers. It investigates the significance of NASA's recent multi-billion-dollar mission to the planet Pluto during a time of global austerity. And, on the way, it invokes the memories of, among others, the Tamworth Two, the Exmoor Emperor, Paul the octopus and Knut the polar bear - not to mention the questionable online craze of scaring cats with cucumbers.

The book's analysis includes original interviews with journalists, politicians, media figures and other key players involved in the telling of these stories.

"It's a serious attempt to see how these soft and sometimes silly news reports say important things about our society today," said Alec. "But I also hope it's fun to read. I've always been fascinated by these kinds of news stories. These extraordinary stories are themselves so strange and funny and moving that they really energise any attempt to write about them academically. They draw the reader to them with their wonder and their charm. I sincerely hope people will enjoy reading about them - and learn something about our society and our media along the way."