Survey: Climate Change News Coverage Needs More Support To Thrive

March 19, 2018

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Survey: Climate Change News Coverage Needs More Support To Thrive


Coverage of climate change has become more difficult as a result of the downsizing that has occurred in newsrooms and with the general decline in the financial health of the media, a survey of the Society of Environmental Journalists has found.

Nearly six out of 10 journalists surveyed said that cutbacks in their organizations have created or worsened obstacles to reporting on climate change. About 20 percent feel this has occurred “a lot.”

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Additionally, two-thirds of the respondents said lack of field reporting was an obstacle to reporting on climate change. On the other hand, a similar percentage believe that their managers and public will welcome coverage of climate change.

"Climate coverage at local news organizations is critical to the public's understanding of how the changing climate affects them where they live and how they can adapt," SEJ President Bobby Magill said. "It's important for us to understand the challenges journalists face in covering climate change so SEJ and other journalism groups can provide reporters with better tools and training to support their reporting."

Not surprisingly, SEJ members are highly engaged on climate change — one of the most pressing issues of our time. With few exceptions, SEJ members understand that climate change already is affecting their lives and is relevant across most beats. SEJ members believe that it is important to write about local impacts and possible solutions.

More than half of SEJ members are interested in professional development on the topic of climate change, the survey shows. SEJ will use the results of this survey to further buttress its efforts to train its members on the science surrounding climate change and help them find tools that allow them to do so efficiently. We invite other organizations to partner with us in this endeavor.

The online census survey was conducted in 2018. About 48 percent of SEJ’s 1,274 members participated.

The survey was conducted as part of the Climate Matters in the Newsroom project — a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration between George Mason University, Climate Central, NOAA, NASA, SEJ and other professional journalism organizations.


* From the weekly news magazine SEJournal Online, Vol. 3, No. 12. Content from each new issue of SEJournal Online is available to the public via the SEJournal Online main page. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here. And see past issues of the SEJournal archived here.

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