It is encouraging to see that the two media platforms with the broadest reach, network TV news and national newspapers, saw the greatest increase over the five year period. Network TV news saw an increase nearing 50%. Though they’ve seen some of the most gains, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Environmental stories make up less than 1% of headlines and receive far less visibility than many trivial issues. While celebrities and entertainment are a key part of American culture, it is hard to argue that Beyoncé warrants 92 times more mentions than deforestation on network TV news programs, given the important role forests play as our planet’s lungs and that many millions of people and species depend on them.
OTHER KEY FINDINGS FROM THE REPORT:
- In 2014, international newspapers included in the study had a level of environmental topic visibility that was 81% higher than U.S. newspapers analyzed.
- Six of the ten broad environmental topics tracked were less visible than just one celebrity, Beyoncé Knowles.
- The broad topic of Ocean Health, which ranked as just slightly less important than Climate Change by environmental experts, was mentioned in less than 1/16th the number of stories that mentioned climate change.
- CBS news mentioned the environmental issues tracked nearly 150% more in 2014 than it did in 2010.
“There is a real opportunity for the industry here. The environment intersects with a number of other issue areas people care a great deal about, like health, the economy and national security to name a few,” says Todd Pollak, Co-Director of the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage. “And we know Americans want more. An Opinion Research Corporation survey found 79% of Americans want improved environmental coverage in the news.” The younger generation, coveted by advertisers, is even more concerned about the environment.
The news media is a primary source of public information about the environment and while many newsrooms are eliminating environmental reporters and editors, there are some bright spots. A range of innovative and legacy news organizations from the Washington Post and the Guardian to the Huffington Post and Vox are ahead of the pack in prioritizing environmental reporting. And there are a range of topic-focused institutions like Environmental Health News, Inside Climate News and the Center for Public Integrity, many of which are partnering with legacy news organizations to expand their reach. New models continue to be explored and academic programs and nonprofit programs continue to develop new resources to assist environmental reporters. With more resources to support strong environmental coverage than ever before, and numerous examples of leadership in environmental coverage, the opportunities are clear for innovation in the industry and increased visibility of this critically important topic.
Watch industry leaders discuss the need and opportunity for improved environmental coverage here: http://environmentalcoverage.org/industry-leaders-video/
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS:
Over the five year period, visibility increased for six of the ten broad topic areas (fresh water quality/scarcity, biodiversity, air pollution, ocean health, agriculture/food safety/security and climate change).
As shown in the graph below, visibility varied tremendously from issue to issue. Climate change was far more visible than any other environmental issue and in 2014 was mentioned in nearly 36% of the stories that discussed one of the 10 broad environmental topic areas.
It is encouraging to see that the two media platforms with the broadest reach, network TV news and national newspapers, were the two platforms that saw an increase over the five year period. Network TV news saw an increase nearing 50%.
Stories mentioning Beyoncé were more than 11 times more common than stories mentioning deforestation and more than five times more common than stories mentioning ocean health as a topic area.
 Project for Improved Environmental Coverage Ranking Report: http://environmentalcoverage.org/ranking/