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US News Media, Copenhagen and Beyond

February 6, 2010

We are almost two months removed from the global climate summit that took place in Copenhagen, Denmark. In December, we provided some analysis of how the climate summit was reported on in the West Michigan news media.

Since mid-December there has been virtually no local news coverage around the issue of global warming. If one looks at the online environmental page of the Grand Rapids Press, the last local story about global warming was in October of 2009, when students organized a rally and march in Grand Rapids.

The rest of the local news media remains silent on this issue and does not have any special sections on their web pages focusing on what might be considered the most urgent issue of our day. However, one can find online opportunities to sign up for contests or browse any number of Lifestyle sections.

Media as Usual as the Earth Simmers

If one is looking to the national news media for better coverage around the issue of global warming, they will be sorely disappointed. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting dedicated its most recent issue of Extra! magazine to the topic of national news coverage of the international climate summit.

In their February issue, FAIR contributors look at topics such as Climate coverage over the past decade in the US, how Newsweek deals with oil industry lobbyists and the New York Times coverage of global warming. Miranda Spencer has an interesting piece entitled, “Environmental Journalism in the Greenhouse Era.” Spencer notes that while the urgency of global warming and other environmental issues has increased, many news agencies have downsized their reporting or eliminated positions.

“CNN’s standalone science and environment team was eliminated (SEJ.org, 1/15/09), and the Weather Channel’s weekly climate program, Forecast Earth, was canceled (WashingtonPost.com, 11/21/08).”

How, Spencer also points out that while mainstream media is cutting back on its commitment to environmental journalism and global warming reporting, there are some emerging news media that focus on these issues. The most promising according to Spencer is Climate Central, a small group of scientists and communicators dedicated to “providing clear, honest, nonpartisan, and up-to-date information to help people make sound decisions about climate and energy.

Another good article in the recent issue of Extra! looks at the climate e-mails that were released before Copenhagen ended up overshadowing the summit. Writer Julie Hollar dissects what the mainstream media referred to as “Climategate.” The problem with the story being the focus of much of the coverage is that it provided an opportunity for global warming deniers to communicate their propaganda that minimizes the seriousness of global warming.

One last article worth mentioning is a piece by Neil deMause. His article, Sidelining Cap and Trade’s Green Critics, contends that there was a double standard in reporting on the issue of carbon trading when looking how pro-business lobbies criticism was reported compared to green critics.

The whole issue of the February 2010 Extra! magazine is worth reading and can provide readers with a better sense of how to read environmental news coverage and why there seems to be less of it.

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