A Trove Of Green Stories … Lost In A Sea of Noise

  • Date: 11/01/10

Journalists worldwide published more than 32,400 articles on climate change in last year, yet the coverage was not enough to warrant a spot on a map showing major news events of 2009.

Amid gloomy reports of shrinking news holes and contracting news rooms, some 11,000 different reporters, columnists and editorial boards at nearly 2,000 media outlets across the globe published climate-related stories, based on an analysis of DailyClimate.org’s archives.

Reuters led the pack, publishing at least 2,550 different articles on the topic last year – the equivalent of seven stories a day. The Associated Press had 1,600. New York Times and London Guardian published 1,400 articles apiece.

The overall total is a 17 percent increase from 2008, though direct comparisons are difficult given changes in posting criteria by the Daily Climate and its sister site, EnvironmentalHealthNews.org.

The numbers reflect a trend observed by media watchers at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder: After steady declines from a 2007 peak (driven in part by former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth) climate change coverage in major world newspapers angled upward in 2009.

“It’s a tricky one,” said Maxwell Boycoff, a faculty member at the center who cautioned against expecting too much “explanatory power coming out of these trends.”

“I do see it as important that it’s going up,” he added. “The more its in the news, the more people understand what’s happening, just because it’s permeating people’s lives.”

But the 32,000 climate-related stories get lost in the larger picture. Last month Good, a nonprofit media platform, assembled a map of 2009 news coverage based on data from thePew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism.

Tiger Woods’ adultery, the “Balloon Boy,” even the White House party crashers all earned a spot; climate change – and the environment in general – didn’t make the cut.

Through early December, Pew found that only 1.5 percent of new coverage studied in 2009 had been about environmental issues, including climate change.

“It’s hard to get exciting news about global warming,” said Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University who studies the state of news coverage. “You end up with this real problematic coverage. The coverage is not the science, it’s these political-economic-social angles.”

Brulle has been tracking national television coverage of climate. His numbers are more dismal than Boycoff’s newspaper trends: In 2008 he found 73 nightly TV news reports on climate; 2009 had 58.

“And that’s even with Copenhagen coverage,” he said.

Still, if Daily Climate’s archives show anything, it’s that thousands of individual reporters and columnists are at least referencing climate change, and that many are producing a dedicated – and deep – news stream.

While the archives show that 11,108 reporters or reporting teams wrote about climate in 2009, 85 reporters wrote 30 or more stories. Those 85 accounted for 5,081 stories – one sixth of the total.

While byline counts are a by no means the only way to measure a journalist’s quality – a reporter might spend months researching and investigating a single story – we offer here a list the most prolific 50, with affiliation and number of stories in the Daily Climate’s archives.

Full list

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