COVERING CLIMATE NOW
Covering Climate Now (CCN) is a new major-media coalition to improve coverage of the climate story. Most people say they don’t hear about climate much in their everyday lives; not among friends and family—and not in the media: one in four Americans say they hear people they know talking about global warming at least once a month. Only half of us say we see climate in the media once a month or more. (YalePCCC).
This is a great opportunity for communications professionals. Over the summer, major media began to pick up the pace of climate reporting on all aspects of this topic, which affects every topic in the newsroom. A coalition of media companies is sharing content and ideas, for example, and CNN (which had been criticized for scheduling skeptics for “balanced” debate) hosted a forum with Presidential candidates spanning several hours. (Highlights here.) A burgeoning coalition of additional major media is organized as “Covering Climate Now,” or CCN. CCN is on Twitter, and updates are accessible on the dedicated CCN Columbia Journalism Review site: https://www.cjr.org/covering_climate_now/.
At Boston University, we are using this mainstream media push as the framework for multiple class activities and student work. We are also mounting a substantive data research analysis on the initiative to ascertain what works and what does not. What keywords are popular? Do certain headlines stand out as engaging? Info below, and we will post more on this project as it unfolds.
As the CCN organizers note, the Kardashians generate more coverage than the climate crisis does. When the IPCC’s Special Report came out in October, 2018, only 22 of the top 50 US newspapers mentioned it on their home pages. More recently, Media Matters provided a dismal report on broadcast news connecting Hurricane Dorian — e.g., aspects of velocity, extreme precipitation, high winds, storm surge — to climate change. However, the massive humanitarian health crisis in Dorian’s wake is being widely reported.
Watch this space for updates.
CCN was announced at the end of April, and the leaders quickly gathered 60 media and institutional participants. Boston University was the first university to sign on, and we are the only major university in Boston at this point. More on BU's involvement in a moment. The most recent post from CCN headquarters (8/28/19) names 170+ participants, and this morning the organizers say we have more than 220 major outlets involved. N.b., the CCN initiative is the largest organized effort to improve media coverage of the climate crisis; others include a growing Florida coalition. More from the NY Times.
The CCN plan is to kickoff coverage across all platforms September 20, for the week of Climate Week NYC, and in coincidence with the global climate strike that day. The media coverage intensive will continue through the week ahead of the UN Global Climate Action Summit, which is part of the 74th UN General Assembly, at which student activist leader Greta Thunberg will speak.
Lei Guo, Hong Vu, and Sarah Finnie Robinson are partnering on a research project to provide a broad assessment of climate coverage in the media, including and beyond CCN, beginning now. This new Climate Change Media Effect Project evaluates the quality of original content and social messages over time; and measures the impact of this news coverage on the public’s thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors regarding the climate change issue. We will work with the GMU/Yale “6 Americas” team, among others, to ascertain significant shifts in public awareness and engagement on this important issue.
As mainstream media tackles the challenge of informing the public, engaging them on solutions, and bringing real impacts home for their audiences, our goal to determine what works and what does not. We will be using complex frames to assess the efficacy of headlines, keywords, images, audio, video, gifs; across content channels and, in particular, via Twitter content and response.
Additionally, at BU COM we currently have 5 student groups working on projects inspired by CCN: they are Hothouse Productions, PRLab, AdLab, and at least two Journalism classes. The Institute for Sustainable Energy is coordinating efforts to present affiliated faculty as thought-leaders and spokespeople to support the media coverage.
Researchers: Dr. Lei Guo, BU COM & Computer Science, Hariri junior faculty fellow; Dr. Hong Vu, Univ. Kansas Journalism & Mass Communications Professor; Sarah Finnie Robinson, Director, The 51 Percent Project, COM adjunct clinical professor, and senior fellow at the BU Institute for Sustainable Energy.