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Last year was the warmest on record for the contiguous United States. The average temperature was 55.3°F in 2012. That's 3.2°F above the 20th century average and 1.0°F above the previous record in 1998. Nonetheless, as Media Matters and the Climate Reality Project point out, members of the British royal family were covered in more than seven times as many nightly news broadcast segments as climate change was.

That's 92 news segments versus 12. ABC World News was the worst. It devoted 43 segments to the royals and one to climate change. But neither NBC Nightly News nor CBS Nightly News were much better. The count did not include cable channels like MSNBC or Foxaganda.

This ongoing imbalance was illustrated just last week when scientists announced that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is set to surpass 400 parts per million, likely for the first time in human history. ABC World News and NBC Nightly News ignored the story, even as NBC found time to cover Prince Harry's visit to the United States.

A previous Media Matters report found that the broadcast networks covered Donald Trump more than climate change in 2011.

Also previously, Media Matters has found a profound unwillingness on the broadcast news programs to tie the pieces together regarding extreme weather patterns and climate change.

Media Matters has joined with Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters in presenting 72,000 petition signatures to the three networks demanding they give more coverage to climate change.

“What we’re seeing outside our window should be reflected on our television screens. We saw historic climate-fueled extreme weather last year, but the major network newscasts barely mentioned climate change at all. It’s clear from the response to this petition that the American people don’t want to see the same old coverage this year,” said Vanessa Kritzer, LCV Online Campaigns Manger.

"After a year of record floods, record storms, and record temperatures that affected the lives of millions nationwide, the American people deserve record coverage of the climate disruption fueling this extreme weather—but we’re not getting it. Now, tens of thousands have stood up to demand more accurate, thorough, and frequent coverage of the climate crisis and the solutions it so immediately demands,” said Maggie Kao, Sierra Club National Press Secretary.

Different sources using different data bases disagree about whether worldwide coverage of climate change went up or down in 2012. But coverage in the major U.S. print media definitely rose. Please read below the fold for more on media coverage of climate change.

A graphic every editor should tape to her laptop

Bill Kovarik, professor of communications at Radford University in Virginia, found that the four U.S. newspapers with the largest circulation—The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times and the Washington Post—published 1,770 stories on climate change last year. That was about 10 percent higher than in 2011. But it was 11 percent below what the four papers published on the topic in 2010. And it was still far from what could be considered adequate.

The best of the lot was The New York Times:

Glenn Kramon, assistant managing editor of the Times attributed last year's uptick in the paper's coverage to the fruition of a 4-year-old effort to group top reporters on a separate environment desk.

The paper has six reporters in the cluster, plus others covering the subject from other desks, as well as several editors—in particular the environment editor, Sandy Keenan – who all are "very comfortable" with the topic, he said.

Ironically, just a few days after Kramon was quoted in the matter in January, the Times dumped its environment desk and eliminated the position of environment editor and deputy environment editor, and reassigned all the staffers on the environment team to other desks. The paper's assistant managing editor said the move would not reduce coverage of climate change.

Perhaps. But that has certainly not been the experience in the past.

In 1990, when the 20th anniversary of Earth Day revived that project in the wake of the publication of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, scores of newspapers across the United States and in some foreign nations added reporters, editors, pages and sometimes entire weekly sections dedicated to environmental coverage. But over the next decade, nearly all of them retreated. Eco-coverage fell off sharply.

If you look for it, you can find plenty of climate-change coverage for the layman on the internet. Good, original reporting like that of Pulitzer prize-winning InsideClimateChange, ClimateProgress is plentiful. There are aggregators like The Daily Climate and Climate Debate Daily. Blogs like DeSmogBlog and more technically oriented sites like RealClimate also cover the field.

But most people don't get their news from those sites, even the ones with relatively high traffic. They get it from television or, in ever smaller numbers, from newspapers. Increasing coverage in those venues, by petitioning or other pressure, is a worthy project.

Two problems, however.

First, much of that coverage is tainted by 20 years of fossil-fueled lies and smears promoted by deniers and "skeptics." So it's not just a matter of increasing the coverage, but vastly improving it.

Second, given its penchant for disaster coverage of any kind, much of any increased climate change coverage can be expected to focus on news that generate despair because the impacts are so great and accelerating. As we know too well, despair creates apathy, and apathy kills activism.

Thus, pressure for increased coverage needs to be combined with pressure for solutions-based coverage. There's plenty of news to fulfill that need, but media ownership blocks much of it from getting regular attention. Making inroads against that requires ramping up action well beyond petition drives.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue May 14, 2013 at 01:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Royal Manticoran Rangers, Climate Change SOS, DK GreenRoots, and Daily Kos.

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