Letters to the Editor: Why climate journalism needs to give readers a reason to hope
“We need to go back to the first principles of journalism.” This was the line from the first page of the January 21, 2010, front page of the Times-Picayune about a new “global warming controversy.” (At press time, the front page bore the headline: “The Earth faces new climate troubles.”)
By now we all know the facts. No other climate change story has been as prominent from the start, and no other story that matters as much has been as poorly reported. The media, however, has not paid much attention to the problem as long as the media can get its feet wet with scandal in the first place. It appears that the Times-Picayune has decided it is better to ignore this new climate issue, and to present it as a minor one, rather than a potentially existential threat.
This has not been so easy for me, or for several other environmental reporters for the Times-Picayune. I cannot afford to take any more time from my work to devote to this new climate issue. I have other pressing matters to deal with. I am not going to quit my job. But I have to make sense of it; I have to present it as one of many issues, rather than as a serious one.
My feeling is that the climate news is not that important. It is not that important in the same sense that the Gulf oil spill is not particularly important — something which is probably getting more attention than the climate news. It seems to me that, despite the high profile nature of the issue, it is not that important because it is low profile and the environment has always attracted low-profile activists and non-activists.
The new climate issue seems to be of greater importance than the Gulf spill, because it is high profile and because people are aware of the problem and want to solve it. And they are not being offered