Network News Coverage of Climate Change Collapsed in 2011

Last week Climate Progress reported on the loss of interest in the story of the century by the major print media — see Silence of the Lambs 2: Media Herd’s Coverage of Climate Change Drops Sharply — Again.

Robert Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, put together similarly stunning data on the coverage in the past 15 years by NBC, ABC, and CBS on the night news.

Brulle explains in an email what he has to say on what happened and why:

As far as coverage of climate change on the evening broadcast news (NBC, CBS, and ABC), this year there were a total of 14 stories, for a total of 32 minutes and 20 seconds of coverage on the three evening news broadcasts. This is down from 32 stories with 90 minutes and 28 seconds of coverage last year, and way off from the peak in 2007, with 147 stories and over 386 minutes of coverage. The nearest year with this low of TV coverage of climate change was 2003, with only 10 stories and 29 minutes and 30 seconds of coverage.

If last year was titled the year coverage fell off the map — then the headline this year might be WHAT COVERAGE?

What drove this? We know that media coverage reacts to political events and elite cues. So from that perspective, we can identify three factors:

1) Failure of the political elite to focus on this issue (Elite Cues) The Obama administration has not discussed this issue at all, as you have previously blogged.

2) Crowding out by other issues (unemployment and economic issue — i.e. macro-economic factors), and

3) No significant change in political equation (no big political events).

Actual news on the climate — including record-smashing extreme weather and its severe consequences — simply can’t compete with the silence of essentially the entire progressive political establishment in terms of driving coverage.


As I have written, the continued self-destructive failure of the nation and the world to reverse greenhouse gas emission trends deserves to be the top story pretty much every year — and how boring is that?!

Stories that might be of interest to future generations, though apparently not our own: