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

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/23

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.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/23

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