Most Americans are concerned about the environment and want better environmental news coverage according to recent polling data. At the same time, numerous studies show that most Americans are alarmingly uninformed about important environmental issues and what can be done to reduce their own footprint. A citizenry that is better informed about how their actions impact the environment is clearly in the public interest. Improved coverage in the news media is one of the best ways to achieve this goal.
Environmental coverage in the news is an important source of public information about environmental issues. Yet research shows that environmental stories garner just 1 percent of headlines. Industry consolidation and cost-cutting measures have eliminated many positions for dedicated environmental reporters at the local level. Even nationally focused news organizations, such as the New York Times and National Public Radio, have greatly reduced their environmental-reporting staff. These changes have resulted in a significant
drop in the number and visibility of environmental stories at these news outlets. The challenges are clear, but with a little innovation and collaboration, new opportunities for strengthened environmental coverage can be created and negative trends can be reversed. This shift will come about when editorial leaders step up to prioritize news of the environment, recognizing the value of this coverage to growing audiences and the stature of any serious news organization.
In 2013, network executives encouraged the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage (PIEC) to coordinate a process to identify the top environmental issues in need of deeper societal understanding and a framework for achieving this objective. This document is a culmination of the effort and will ideally serve to inform news organizations about the need and benefits of stronger environmental coverage along with opportunities and strategies to achieve this goal. Specifically, this framework will discuss the following:
- The need for improved environmental coverage
- The value and business case for improved environmental coverage
- Prioritizing environmental issues
- Structuring news organizations for strong environmental coverage
- Partnerships that can reduce costs and improve environmental coverage
- Resources available to environmental journalists
The working group also developed at a framework for industry stakeholders and foundations, which can be explored here.