Reporting Climate Change

Reporting Climate Change: an
international perspective
Paddy Coulter, Director, Oxford Global Media
and Fellow, Green Templeton College,
University of Oxford
Problem of “Spikes”
Issues for Journalists
1. Adapting science to headline new stories
(scientific process vs news event)
2. Avoiding scientific jargon
3. Explaining risks and uncertainties
4. Finding the human angle
5. Promoting informed public debate
International Media Study
Purpose: to explore the framing of climate change in
national newspapers in
1. Ghana - the poorer South (with University of Ghana
School of Communication Studies)
2. Norway - the more affluent North (with Norwegian
School of Management, Oslo)
3. China - the rapidly growing East (with Sun Yat-Sen
University School of Government, Guangzhou)
Research Methods
• Three leading newspapers per country monitored
• An elite paper, a popular paper and a specialist
business paper
• Monitoring over 6 months January/June 2008
• Sample of 100 articles randomly selected for closer
• Interviews with journalists/editors
Problem of Sources
(numbers of articles per main source)
Problem of “Churnalism”
(numbers of articles)
Problem of Story Placement
Ghana - stories tucked away inside
except for “Accra Hosts Big Confab on
Climate Change” front page lead
China - stories of national leaders’
activities given prominence, otherwise
no clear pattern of favourable
Norway – more vigorous debate often
gives stories prominent treatment but
the only country to give significant
space to contrarian views
“No big stories
come out of
that [climate
Ghanaian editor interviewed in
November 2008
Conclusions of International Study
1. Climate crisis treated only as secondary level
2. Few stories with local angles to global climate
change (forest retention in Ghana, fish stocks in
Norway, extreme weather in China)
3. Predominance of top-down stories disconnected
from people’s lives and realities
4. Lack of debate on systemic ways of tackling the
global climate challenge
Further Information