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Why We Need More (and Better) Environmental Coverage in the News

Why We Need More (and Better) Environmental Coverage in the News

Written by Tyson Miller

Around Earth Day, environmental stories in the mainstream news media usually peak. However, consistent environmental news coverage throughout the rest of the year is hard to find; with environmental stories representing just 1% of news headlines for nationally focused news outlets.

Case in point: James Bond related coverage garnered 5 times more coverage than fracking on major nightly news programs over the past year. Americans overwhelmingly want something to change in this area. In fact, data shows that nearly 80% want environmental coverage in the news to be improved regardless of age, race, or geographic location.

Invariably we live in a society where the story or headline most likely to attract a viewer is often what makes it above the fold. The problem, however, is that entertainment and crime stories, on average, garner 3 and 5 times more coverage than environmental ones.  Unfortunately, for some credible news organizations, the ratio is 50 to 1. After analyzing 17 months of data for 46 news organizations and compiling into a ranking report, some of the other findings are striking:

  • Fox News had the highest percentage of headline environmental stories (1.57%) among cable and network news outlets; with CNN having the lowest (0.36%) (although FOX’s climate coverage has been documented for being misleading over 90% of the time).
  • Despite being publicly-supported news organizations, even NPR and PBS consistently prioritize entertainment headlines over environmental ones.
  • Independent news organizations and many local newspapers prioritize environmental coverage much more than national news organizations and are the success models to look to

The good news is that the environment is an “integrating” topic and can be connected to jobs and the economy, health, climate change, food, security, community development, justice, education, business, science and technology, weather, and so much more. Fortunately, there are more resources now than ever before to report on environmental stories. Whether in the form of news wires, content sharing partnerships, credible academic institutions, or journalism training organizations, news executives have a range of resources at their fingertips. The key question is whether there is the will to push the needle forward on this issue.

CNN’s Founder Ted Turner has said that “We must go through a natural revolution if we are to survive on earth. We need to change people’s perceptions.” As an industry pioneer Mr. Turner is onto something because the news plays a vital role in influencing public understanding and opinions when it comes to environmental issues.

Why Environmental Coverage Matters

We are at a point like none other in history. With seven billion of us and counting, our footprint is impacting our children’s future like never before. And we are already seeing and feeling its effects in the form of resource wars, climate change, trillions in economic impact, food scarcity, endangered indigenous cultures, body toxicity, and much more. But, we are an ingenious species and have the ability to nurture a more restorative society if we put our mind to it. Now is the time to better understand our unprecedented predicament so that we can chart a different course. Improved environmental literacy can ultimately translate to better policy making at local and national levels, collective actions that reduce impacts, and the cultivation of an expanded national stewardship ethic.

Given their reach, large mainstream news organizations have a moral imperative to do a better job covering public interest news like the environment and hopefully one day soon, entertainment headlines will be three times less than environmental ones.

This post was originally published by Common Dreams.

 

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70 comments

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8:00AM PDT on Jun 11, 2013

thanks for sharing

1:07PM PDT on May 11, 2013

coming soon to a fracking state near you: earthquakes.

8:50AM PDT on May 2, 2013

Yes it makes me mad that IF there is an environmental or nimal related story it is just stuck on the end of the news, after the football etc. its like it doesnt matter. It's disgraceful, and i just dont understand why the human race STILL doesnt care about his stuff.

10:44AM PDT on May 1, 2013

I do believe that dollar signs have made the "moral imperative" extinct.

10:06AM PDT on May 1, 2013

ty

6:51AM PDT on May 1, 2013

Karen,
I do not feel that the people who "don't believe in climate change" do so because politicians are telling them it is a fallacy. Granted, there are those who will believe that the entire thing is a left-wing hoax perpetrated by some anti-capitalistic group. They are few, and have other issues. There is a much larger group (probably the majority) who accept the changes that have occurred, but are not convinced that we are headed for a climate armageddon. I place most of the blame for this on the media, and those "scientists" who have promoted the idea that the Earth is headed for some catastrophic changes. This plays well in the media, and there are far too many people willing to give their "gloom and doom" scenarios for the human race. The recent proclamations that every weather event is caused by climate change is more and more falling on deaf ears (one would think that these events never happened before). These people are doing more harm than good, as the backlash from such claims has been for many to move too far in the opposite direction (see hoax above). This is another case where the results have not matched the hype. Unfortunately, there are still those fueling this hype, and the media likes to pit them against the "disbelievers," such that the real climate data gets lost in the battle. I place most of the blame for this on those scientists who paraded themselves in front of the media with their dire predictions.

2:17PM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

We need much more and thorough environmental coverage, especially coverage that is unbiased and not funded by corporate money, which always tries to interfere with what it believes the public should and should not know. Thanks.

11:36AM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

Our news and media coverage is generally dominated by money and power, viz: what the rich and famous (are) do(ing) and the state of the financial systems of the world, which tells us, and is a sad indictment of humankind's preoccupation with everything.

News/media coverage is also controlled by the few, who can effectively create any agenda and in a sense dictate how we all think, feel and what kind of products we buy.

I really dislike the fact that any news item is reduced to a few soundbites, with nothing meaty or substantial being offered, and as a consequence, one's actual attention span seems to be similarly affected, as one gets used to short bursts, with nothing of real value.

10:30AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

Thanks

7:58AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

thanks

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