Journalism and Climate Change

By Tim Webber

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Earlier this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report indicating that 2014 will be the warmest year on record. The report details multiple records that 2014 has or is expected to break, which are all just different ways of saying that the Earth is getting pretty hot.

NBC News compiled the data into a nice article yesterday, and, of course, articles on news websites have comment sections. A cursory glance at this article’s comment section appears to reveal how divisive the issue of climate change is. The rage-fueled arguments get hotter than, well, Earth. One commenter, baffled by how everyone could buy into the global warming scam, concluded his statement by saying, “If you don’t think it’s getting colder, try going outside.”

The rest of us know that feeling as winter. But don’t be too hard on this anonymous Internet commenter. As I’ve written before, this guy is not alone. What he is alone in—figuratively speaking—is arguing against the existence of climate change.

Back in October, I went to the Iowa Environmental Council’s annual conference, which was held in Upper Olmsted. The keynote speaker, Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, spoke about climate change and effective ways to communicate about the issue. Leiserowitz was very clear—nearly all scientists agree that climate change does exist and should be addressed. The bulk of the public agrees. The people you see commenting on climate change articles are an extremely vocal—but extremely small—minority.

So how should journalists handle writing about climate change and similar issues? I think NBC News did well in their article. They reported the facts and connected most of the dots, but weren’t in your face about global warming. The trolls will always show up to any article about climate change, so there’s no point in trying to appease them. Be fair and accurate with your readers, and no one with any semblance of intelligence will be able to complain about your writing.


6 responses to “Journalism and Climate Change

  1. I agree with you that the NBC News article did a good job preparing the information in a more or less unbiased way, and I think other media companies should follow its example. Even if something seems obvious, its important to be respectful of the opinions of others, even if they are contrary to what you believe. When covering issues like climate change that affect the global population, I also think it’s important that you’re not looking through a frame that is limited to the perceptions of one country, but rather objectively analyzes the issue as a whole.

  2. NBC always has a way of reporting things in the best way possible. They see every side to the story, and create well rounded pieces that every reader (for the most part) will enjoy. Stating obvious opinions to a story, make your readers mad and angry and more likely to lash out and respond. When if comes to issues like global warming, everyone has their own thoughts on the subject. So, it is necessary to step lightly and not on anyones toes. I like what “skleblanc” says about not limiting your view on just one country, and looking at the whole picture which changes things.

  3. “The people you see commenting on climate change articles are an extremely vocal—but extremely small—minority.”

    This is really important. I think people generally tend to hear people who have more extreme views on various topics. Sometimes it’s easy to forget people are usually more “gray” than black and white on most issues.

  4. I think NBC did a good job on reporting this article, obviously they aren’t weathermen and writing about the weather is not their number one priority. There is always going to be someone out there that disagrees with what you say or will try to start something. When it comes to writing about issues such as global warming, they did a good job at educating and giving the facts.

  5. I agree with everyone above that the article did a good job of covering global warming objectively. The article keeps an informed tones, and it is readable for those who know tons or nothing about climate control. The writer did a good job of educating readers without making people feel like it was dumbed down.

  6. Now that you mention it, it is a small group of people who disagree. I always thought it was a large group of opponents but instead they are just a very loud, small group. It’s a difficult task trying to silence or reason with opponents but I think journalists are trying their best and working with the media platforms in doing so.

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