Global climate change may be the greatest environmental risk of our time, and of all time. It has the potential to affect all of the Earth’s inhabitants, like previous climate change has, but perhaps in a shorter time-frame and on a larger scale. It could alter life as we know it in many arcane, unpredictable ways (Wilson, 1995). Reporting on climate change must address the deeper social and economic dimensions of sustainable development. Reporting needs to be multi-faceted, given the complexity of the issue. Climate change demands both political and personal responses, and this will depend on timely, accurate information. The fact that the reality of today is mediated mostly by the media means the media is the tool to make people informed citizens.

Journalists were more likely to exaggerate rather than reduce measurements. For example, journalists were more likely to exaggerate and not underestimate the rise of sea-levels. The emphasis on bad news, on the potential of horrific events happening, is more newsworthy than information discussing potential subtleties over a longer period. The theory is often used to demonstrate the power of the media over audiences. Agenda-setting studies have suggested that media coverage does influence public attention to climate change, but what to think with regard to the issue is determined by social activism and experience with ground reality.

The methodology of the study is: discourse analysis with the media text including those of The Hindu, The Times of India, The New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle, NDTV and CNN-IBN; and interview with 25 journalists covering climate change and working in the abovementioned media organizations. The study also involved interviewing some environmental journalists in Chennai. Based on the interviews and review of literature, the following points were arrived at:
Climate change is abstract, not connected with day-to-day reality;
• Climate change is too broad a topic;
• Climate change is mostly a technical matter;
• Journalists ignore climate change as part of news coverage as they do not understand the technicalities involved.
• Scientists do not give climate change literature in a jargon-free language;
• Journalists hardly receive in-service training on climate change;
• Journalists fail to link ground realities with existing policies and politics.

A discourse analysis of media text proves that journalists have been quite successful in communicating the enormity of the risk planet earth is facing due to climate change. The media makes it clear that problems faced are due to human causes rather than natural causes. The problems faced by climate change journalists are similar to those in other beats. Lack of sensational content may cause reports to get sidelined. So,controversies such as an error in assessing melting of glaciers in the Himalayas are blown up. The fact the Himalayan glaciers are a little explored area complicates the matter. It is difficult to find sources and one cannot get concrete facts. With extensive competition from other media organizations covering the same news story, the media has taken up to approach the story from different angles to retain the news hungry public. Lack of local scientific data and scientific measurement methods too poses a problem.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Indian media coverage of climate change
A study

I. Arul Aram   Anna University

Global climate change may be the greatest environmental risk of our time, and of all time. It has the potential to affect all of the Earth’s inhabitants, like previous climate change has, but perhaps in a shorter time-frame and on a larger scale. It could alter life as we know it in many arcane, unpredictable ways (Wilson, 1995). Reporting on climate change must address the deeper social and economic dimensions of sustainable development. Reporting needs to be multi-faceted, given the complexity of the issue. Climate change demands both political and personal responses, and this will depend on timely, accurate information. The fact that the reality of today is mediated mostly by the media means the media is the tool to make people informed citizens.

Journalists were more likely to exaggerate rather than reduce measurements. For example, journalists were more likely to exaggerate and not underestimate the rise of sea-levels. The emphasis on bad news, on the potential of horrific events happening, is more newsworthy than information discussing potential subtleties over a longer period. The theory is often used to demonstrate the power of the media over audiences. Agenda-setting studies have suggested that media coverage does influence public attention to climate change, but what to think with regard to the issue is determined by social activism and experience with ground reality.

The methodology of the study is: discourse analysis with the media text including those of The Hindu, The Times of India, The New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle, NDTV and CNN-IBN; and interview with 25 journalists covering climate change and working in the abovementioned media organizations. The study also involved interviewing some environmental journalists in Chennai. Based on the interviews and review of literature, the following points were arrived at:
Climate change is abstract, not connected with day-to-day reality;
• Climate change is too broad a topic;
• Climate change is mostly a technical matter;
• Journalists ignore climate change as part of news coverage as they do not understand the technicalities involved.
• Scientists do not give climate change literature in a jargon-free language;
• Journalists hardly receive in-service training on climate change;
• Journalists fail to link ground realities with existing policies and politics.

A discourse analysis of media text proves that journalists have been quite successful in communicating the enormity of the risk planet earth is facing due to climate change. The media makes it clear that problems faced are due to human causes rather than natural causes. The problems faced by climate change journalists are similar to those in other beats. Lack of sensational content may cause reports to get sidelined. So,controversies such as an error in assessing melting of glaciers in the Himalayas are blown up. The fact the Himalayan glaciers are a little explored area complicates the matter. It is difficult to find sources and one cannot get concrete facts. With extensive competition from other media organizations covering the same news story, the media has taken up to approach the story from different angles to retain the news hungry public. Lack of local scientific data and scientific measurement methods too poses a problem.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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