Climate Change & Journalism

Climate Change Journalism

Climate change is one of the most severe problems of our time. What we know about it – or what we think we know – is partially shaped by mass media. Journalists report on scientific research, political decisions and debates, and economic or technical developments. These journalists, while professional, are also human and their beliefs, priorities, and writings are influenced by a number of factors. This study seeks to assess which factors most influence journalists in their coverage of climate change. What influence do the journalists’ personal opinion, formative background, and education have?

How do working conditions, working routines and professional standards influence his reporting? Which key actors – politicians, business men, NGOs, or scientists – exert influence upon journalists? The paper evaluates these impacts. In the first part of the work, I utilize several theoretical models to consider modes of influence and present a brief summary of the development of the topic of global warming in the media, its impacts on our society, and journalistic characteristics of climate change coverage.

Climate Change Journalism ImpactI analyze this theoretical information in the second part of the paper: 64 journalists covering global warming in the United States, Germany and Bangladesh have been asked about sources of influence in a quantitative online survey. The results indicate that the driving force of climate change coverage in all countries is scientific evidence. Although few journalists have a degree in climate science, most of them focus on science and environment and are highly interested in scientific findings on global warming. The vast majority of journalists are convinced of human-made climate change.

The findings suggest that convincing their audience and expressing their opinion is not important for American and German journalists, but somewhat important for Bangladeshi journalists. Besides scientists, NGOs and think tanks are important sources of information, especially in Bangladesh and in the US. Politics is important when it comes to major international events including climate change disasters and conferences. Furthermore, there are some country specific foci: In Germany, the focus is technical developments, in the US human destinies and politics, and in Bangladesh opinion polls and impacts of lifestyles. The paper concludes with directions for further research.

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