Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Legendary journalist Edward R Murrow famously provided live reports of German tanks crossing the Polish Border. Columbia Journalism Review thinks journalists today should copy his example, and defy their editors when sending reports from the front lines of climate change.
Why Can’t We Call It An Emergency?
By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope
JUNE 3, 2021
TV NEWSMAN BILL MOYERS likes to tell the story of how Edward R. Murrow, the pre-eminent US broadcast journalist of his time, insisted on covering what became Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939. Murrow’s bosses at CBS News had other priorities; they ordered Murrow’s reporters to cover dance competitions in Hamburg, Paris, and London, explaining that Americans needed some happy news. Murrow wouldn’t do it. “It’ll probably get us fired,” he told his colleagues, but he sent his correspondents to the German-Polish border; they arrived just in time to witness Hitler’s tanks and troops roar into Poland. Suddenly, Europe was at war. And Americans heard about it because journalists at one of the nation’s most influential news outlets defied convention and did their jobs.
Today, all of humanity is under attack, this time from an overheated planet — and too many newsrooms still are more inclined to cover today’s equivalent of dance competitions. The record heat waves and storms of 2020 confirmed what scientists have long predicted: climate change is underway and threatens unparalleled catastrophe. And because carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere for centuries, temperature rise and its effects are only getting started. As one scientist said as wildfires turned San Francisco’s skies orange last September, “We’re going to look back in 10 years, certainly 20 … and say, ‘Wow, 2020 was a crazy year, but I miss it.’”
A handful of major newspapers are paying attention. But most news coverage, especially on television, continues to underplay the climate story, regarding it as too complicated, or disheartening, or controversial. Last month, we asked the world’s press to commit to treating climate change as the emergency that scientists say it is; their response was dispiriting.
This message is muted at best today, and the result is predictable. In the United States, only 26 percent of the public is “alarmed” about climate change, according to opinion polls analyzed by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications (a member of the CCNow consortium). One reason why? Less than a quarter of the public hear about climate change in the media at least once a month.
…Read more: https://www.cjr.org/covering_climate_now/climate-emergency-statement.php
There is a reason news rooms don’t provide more coverage of the “climate crisis”. Most of the material which climate activists want newsrooms to print is not actually news.
“Glaciers to melt in 50 years” – does that get your heart racing? Glaciers melting next year would be far more interesting, but near term predictions carry significant risks. In 2019 Glacier National Park had to quietly remove their “Gone by 2020” signs, after the glaciers failed to melt on schedule.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes provides an excellent explanation of why climate news does not receive more attention;
Did anyone notice a few weeks ago, when a 1600 square mile iceberg broke off the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica? Of course not. Big icebergs happen from time to time, they don’t affect anyone’s life to any significant degree. It is not likely this iceberg will show up anywhere interesting. What happens in the Antarctic tends to stay in the Antarctic.
Events which actually affect people’s daily lives, like efforts to pressure city politicians to actually do some of that road maintenance they keep promising, are far more relevant and interesting.
Hayes did point out that people’s interest in climate change jumps when other events occur, like when a big wildfire somewhere which threatens people’s homes. Big fires are an opportunity for activist journalists to slip in a few climate messages, because a major disaster is an opportunity to make climate change seem relevant. But the interest in climate change rapidly fades away after the fire is contained.
There is one aspect of the climate crisis which is consistently newsworthy, which WUWT will continue to highlight: all the politicians who seek to take advantage of people’s fear of climate change, to pass their economy wrecking big government boondoggles, and the scientists who provide cover for the politicians with their evidence lite models.
A rise in taxes or government deficits this year is far more important to most people, than a load of empty hype about events which might happen 50 years from now. Who cares about some big iceberg, when your job security is at risk?