Our new study shows that environmental stories represent just 1% of news headlines in the US and that entertainment stories garner nearly three times more headlines. It also found that for some news organizations, entertainment and crime garner twenty times and sixty times more coverage than the environment. Recent polling shows that news consumers overwhelmingly know that something needs to change—with nearly 80 percent of Americans wanting improved environmental coverage in the news. (See more information about the polling here)
Key Findings From the Report
- The Huffington Post was the environmental coverage leader for nationally focused news organizations with 3% of headlines (nearly 3x the national average).
- Most nationally focused news platforms have high crime-to-environment ratios despite the fact that many crime stories are local. For cable and online news the averages are 9-to-1 and 6-to-1 respectively.
- Fox News had the highest percentage of headline environmental stories (1.57%) among cable and network news outlets, even beating out PBS (1.43%); with CNN having the lowest (0.36%) (although Fox’s environmental coverage has often been documented and criticized for being biased and misleading).
- Despite being publicly-supported news organizations, NPR and PBS consistently prioritize entertainment headlines over environmental ones.
- Local newspapers prioritize environmental coverage nearly three times more on the average compared to nationally focused news organizations (with the Daily Herald [WA] leading the industry at 7.3%).
“There is a lot of room for improvement and local newspapers and independent news organizations can be looked to as models when it comes to prioritizing environmental coverage. There are more resources than ever for reporting on or curating environmental stories,” says report author Tyson Miller “and in light of the environmental challenges we face, we and many others look forward to seeing more news organizations stepping into leadership roles and helping their industry to innovate in this area.”
An Industry Snapshot
The following charts are just a snap-shot of graphs from the full report. The figure below illustrates how varying news media types are prioritizing environmental coverage. Local newspapers are the only news format that prioritizes environmental over entertainment headlines on average.
Ranking: Nationally Prominent News Outlets by Percentage of Environmental Headlines
Top Three Local Newspapers
As is evident from the tables above, most nationally recognized news organizations tracked by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism have ample room to improve environmental reporting, especially when compared to crime and entertainment reporting. In contrast, local newspapers as a whole perform much better in this area, and can be looked to as models for replication.
Superficial News vs. Environmental News
When the frequency of reporting on environmental issues is compared to reporting on celebrities or entertainment-related topics, it becomes clear that there is a need for many mainstream news sources to reconsider what issues they prioritize.
New Report Urges More Environmental Coverage in the News (Press Release)