Media Urged To Improve, Rename Climate Coverage

The media hasn’t been doing a sufficient job of covering climate change, according to a new movement led by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation.

Joined by The Guardian, the "Covering Climate Now" project launched this week, aiming to bring together journalists and news outlets to revise how the topic is covered.

“We see ourselves as convening and informing a conversation that journalists need to have with each other and the public we serve about how to do justice to the climate story at this decisive historic moment,” stated Kyle Pope, editor-publisher of CJR.

A white paper published by Pope and Mark Hertsgaard, environment correspondent for The Nation, urged the media to do a better job of covering climate change.



“Newsroom managers have failed to see the climate crisis as fundamental, all-encompassing and worthy of attention from every journalist on their payrolls,” they wrote.

Covering Climate Now was created at a conference in April at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

It was inspired by a column from Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan published last October, after UN climate scientists warned that carbon emissions needed to be halved in the next 12 years or the world would suffer dire consequences.

Sullivan called for “radical change” in U.S. media coverage. “This subject must be kept front and center,” she wrote.

The Schumann Media Center has pledged $1 million to fund the first year of the project.

Covering Climate Now aims to bring journalists together at events around the world and online, via a new vertical on the CJR and The Nation websites.

“In these and other venues, we hope journalists and others will talk about, report on, analyze, and debate how news outlets should cover the rapidly uncoiling climate crisis and its solutions,” reads a page dedicated to explaining Covering Climate Now.

The initiative will highlight the best coverage being done and find ways to encourage more of it.

“Above all, we want to break the climate silence that still pervades too much of the news media,” the page reads.
In September, to coincide with a United Nations summit being held in New York dedicated to the issue of limiting the global temperature rise, the Covering Climate Now project will commit one week of focused coverage on climate change.

Also this week, progressive nonprofit think tank Public Citizen found that fewer than 10% of articles in the top 50 U.S. subscription newspapers in 2018 used the words “crisis” or “emergency” when referring to climate change.

The Guardian updated its style guide so going forward, its journalists use the terms “climate emergency,” “climate crisis” or “climate breakdown” instead of “climate change.”

The phrase “climate change,” noted editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, “sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

“We call on the U.S. media to do the same,” stated David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program. “When news outlets consistently fail to use language that conveys climate change is a crisis or emergency, they unwittingly put a heavy thumb on the scale in favor of complacency and inaction.”

He added: “It’s past time for the media to call the climate emergency what it is – and to cover it with the regularity, focus and depth merited by an urgent, existential crisis.”

7 comments about "Media Urged To Improve, Rename Climate Coverage".
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  1. Todd Gaak from Observer, May 28, 2019 at 11:42 a.m.

    What scientific training do most journalists or editors have that qualifies them to decide such coverage or the veracity of climate activists?   Is that the rightful role of journalism -- to take a position on an issue, to engage as a participant in public policy debate rather than cover it?  Is the US immigration situation at the Mexico border a "crisis?"  According to 97 percent of the US Border Control, it is so why not advocate for that cause?  In what other cause are they so involved that potentially affect "everyone on the planet?" Terrorism?  Non-communistic economic systems?  Public morality?  The demise of organized religion? What other facet of life would it be acceptable for journalists to take a position in their work?  What other issues would the media just blindly accept as 'gospel' the info supplied by "experts"?  -- Trust us, we know climate science, you don't.  By this logic, if the media doesn't want the Earth to end, does that mean it should champion the leadership of the US -- as the Lone Superpower -- in all global affairs and international conflicts?  The public has endured 30+ years of increasingly hyperbolic advocacy and critical laziness, and professional malpractice toting the designated point-of-view of climate alarmists.  Indeed, the media already participates by assigning labels and repeating slurs aimed at opposing points of view ("climate deniers") -- what other public debate would that be acceptable?  (OK, perhaps anti-gun control "gun nuts" comes close).  Despite this history of stacked-deck journalism, the media-consuming public has remained skeptical of the endless droning of doomsday peddlers based on their personal observations, memories of past erroneous predictions and their own "smell tests."  So now the media must double-down because the rhetoric hasn't been shrill enough.  Really?  The major news organizations already slavishly lap up most things put forth by a very narrow group of sources as it is.  When was the last time the news media critically covered climate science to the same degree that it covers US military, economic or immigration policy?  

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, May 28, 2019 at 6:33 p.m.

    What does any journalist or editor have any specific education on any particular topic that allows them them to report accurately ? Your denial ends in your first sentence.

  3. John Grono from GAP Research replied, May 28, 2019 at 7:18 p.m.

    Ummm.   Maybe freedom of speech.

  4. Daniel Wheeler from Republican American, May 29, 2019 at 10:09 a.m.

    This is exactly why people are losing trust in the media.  
    Don't assume that your readers are stupid.

  5. Todd Gaak from Observer, May 30, 2019 at 3:05 p.m.

    Professional pollsters use scientific methods and mathematical principles to guide their work, and they publicly state a margin of error -- thereby describing the potential of error in their work.  The media use & report such footnotes.  Why don't articles about climate models or expert analysis or proposed legislation/regulation include this too so that people can make up their own minds?  Oh, that's right, they don't want that because that's what they've been doing.  Ergo, the doubling-down has to be ratcheted up.   

  6. John Grono from GAP Research replied, May 30, 2019 at 5:13 p.m.

    Todd, you are correct.

    Political pollsters use very small samples of very large populations, to enumerate estimates of what is virtually a dichotomous result from a disparate heterogeneous population.   The precision of the response provided has to be trusted (i.e. that people repond tuthfully) and the representativeness of the sample can (and is) be suspect.   However most poll results still manage to be within the =/- 3 standard deviations 95% confidence interval.

    Measuring climate (temperature, wind, CO2 etc.) is done with very large samples globally, to report scientifically measured metrics that are collected without human intervention in real-time.   There is data that goes back hundreds of years but it required 'point-of-time' recording by a human - it is still accurate, just less dense and with occasional data points missing.   The measurement locations are (generally) static, so any change in the data is driven solely by the climate.   While it is not perfect - as no data set ever is and never can be - it is probably the most accurate longitudinal data that we as a human race have ever collected.   In effect, there is no meaaurable error level in the base data, however, for any weather forecasts (the equivalent of a political pollsters election result prediction of +/- 3%) there should be.   In my experience most forecasts are pretty spot on.   As I sit here in my office the forecast was for 4.5C and my weather station is showing 3.6C.   Good job I say.

  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 30, 2019 at 5:58 p.m.

    Adding to John's excellent comments, there is no way to determine a survey's "accuracy" by calculating "standard error" margins based on sample size. I'm referring to "accuracy" as most people understand the word---meaning whether the findings are correct. What standard error calculations based on sample size give you are merely the odds that the same survey, using the same sampling methods, sample size and questionning will give you the same answers. In other words, the statisticians are referring to "consistency" not "accuracy" as most of us understand it.

    There are countless examples of  surveys with almost identical sample sizes, hence identical standard error calculations, producing extremely different results when trying to measure the same thing.  As an exampe, the pre-1990 Simmons magazine readership studies typically generated issue audiences that were half or less the size of those reported by MRI, yet both had approximately the same sample size. Why the difference? Simple. They posed their readership questions in a completely different manner and this, not sample size, is what determined the varying outcomes. Sure, it's useful to bear in mind the size of any sample---but knowing that, alone, can not tell you which survey is accurate.

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