Knight Center research director Bruno Takahashi recently co-authored a study in the journal Environmental Communication examining media coverage of climate change in news publications around the Great Lakes region. The study was co-authored with Kanni Huang, a recent Ph.D graduate from MSU; Fred Fico, emeritus professor in the School of Journalism at MSU,; and Dave Poulson, associate director of the Knight Center.
The study, titled Climate change reporting in Great Lakes region newspapers: a comparative study of the use of expert sources, examined the use of expert sources by online news outlets and found that few expert sources were used in the coverage of climate change, compared to non-expert sources such as politicians. In regards to these expert sources, the researchers found that very few skeptics were used in the stories. However, skeptic sources were more prominent in the stories; — in other words, they were featured earlier in stories than sources who believed in climate change. The study results also showed that reporters who cover climate change more frequently tended to use scientific sources more frequently and more prominently than reporters who authored fewer stories on the issue Finally, the study found that Canadian newspapers gave non-science sources significantly greater prominence than did US newspapers.
The study, funded by the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education, provides evidence about the limited use of skeptic sources in climate change coverage, but also highlights the fact that those sources are more prominent in the same news stories
By David Poulson
I was a bit surprised this week to get a press release
from the University of Michigan titled, “Female scientists to sample plastics in all five Great Lakes.”
Here’s the lede:
“ANN ARBOR—Female scientists from the U.S. and Canada will set sail Aug. 20 on all five Great Lakes and connecting waterways to sample plastic debris pollution and to raise public awareness about the issue.”
Microplastics pollution in the Great Lakes is an important story. It’s one that we’ve often covered
on the Knight Center’s environmental news service.
And this certainly seems like a story:
“Teams of researchers will collect plastic debris on the five Great Lakes, as well Lake St. Clair-Detroit River and the Saint Lawrence River. Data collected will contribute to growing open-source databases documenting plastic and toxic pollution and their impacts on biodiversity and waterway health, according to event organizers.”
But isn’t it the substance of the endeavor that’s newsworthy – rather than the gender of those implementing it?
Some of what I do at MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism involves helping researchers better communicate their work directly to the public and to decision makers.
Much of that consists of pointing out altruistic and selfish reasons to do so. And then I follow up with tips and techniques and a general admonition to practice, practice, practice.
Many researchers share the same problems – a tendency toward jargon, burying the lede, too many words and a lack of focus. Continue reading
Four Michigan State University alums now practicing journalism were among those who recently tried to resolve the challenges of communicating uncertainty.
The Washington D.C. workshop they participated in brought together about 45 scientists, lawyers and journalists from across the nation to discuss how each of those groups try to resolve and express uncertainty. They explored the professional ethics that make it difficult to communicate environmental issues as diverse as genetically modified crops and global climate change. Continue reading