Mainstream News Media Ignored the Climate Crisis in 2019 — Let’s Talk About It

According to a recent study of news coverage in 2019 by the organization Media Matters, news shows on the major networks aired only 238 minutes of climate crisis coverage, which was actually up from 2018 significantly, but as a whole still made up only 0.7% of overall corporate broadcast nightly and Sunday morning news shows in 2019.  Of the major networks, CBS was by far the best, but PBS Newshour, which was not included in the major network statistic, outperformed the corporate networks in climate coverage airing 121 climate segments —  was more than ABC, CBS, and NBC nightly news shows combined.

Why This Matters:  Major network news is a bellwether for the nation — if they are not talking about climate change, then neither is the American public. Most people in this country still get their news from the major networks — at least for now — so we need to get more news coverage of the issue.  But how? Surveys by the Climate Communications Program at Yale/George Mason University found that 59% of Americans talk about climate change with their family or friends “rarely” or “never,” and that most people only hear about climate change on the news once per month.  Per Axios, “What people talk about is what ultimately rises as a priority among the public, says Anthony Leiserowitz, senior research scientist and director of Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication.”  Now that we know one of the basic problems, we must set out to fix it.  TV News bookers, please expect ODP’s persistent emails, texts, and calls! This can and must improve in 2020.

PS – They didn’t count the Climate Forum we cosponsored with MSNBC back in September, which provided 13 hours of climate change news coverage.  Just sayin’.

Coverage of Climate by The Numbers – Greta Broke Through — Women and Minorities Not So Much

Here are the top-line takeaways from the Media Matters Study:

  • “Climate activism made up roughly 16% of overall climate coverage” mostly focused on Greta Thunberg and the youth climate strikes.
  • Nearly 40% of climate segments aired in August and September when the U.N. Climate Summit and global climate demonstrations occurred.
  • “People of color made up only 10% of guests who were interviewed or featured in the corporate networks’ climate coverage.”
  • “Both scientists and women were also underrepresented in climate coverage, making just up 22% and 27% of guests, respectively.”
  • “Several major drivers of climate coverage in 2019 included the Green New Deal, climate activism, extreme weather, and the 2020 election.”
    • “There were no nightly news segments on the Green New Deal.”
    • “The Sunday morning shows covered it in 39% of its climate segments, though primarily through a political lens.”

What You Can Do:  Start talking about climate change.  According to the Climate Communications Center, the percentage of people talking about climate change “often” has almost doubled from 5% to 9%, but it’s still too small.  You are now officially part of the 9%.  Can we make this number go up by next year’s survey?


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