Communicating on Climate Change is thus rationally organized into eight chapters over seventy-odd pages, which offer something for everyone (even those concerned with scientific topics other than climate). For journalists, it provides a summary of the scientific method, scientific “uncertainty,” and the peer-review process. For scientists, it explains the basic ground rules for information gathering (including on- and off-the-record interviews) and why reporters do not always write their own headlines (which, more often than the stories themselves, tend to provoke scientists’ ire), and defines jargon such as the term “news peg.” It also covers some areas where science coverage should break with traditional journalistic norms, explaining why customary, reportorial “balance” is not a good fit with climate coverage and why it is permissible (and even desirable) for reporters to let scientists review selected excerpts of their copy.
Ward, who was recently named 2009 Climate Communicator of the Year by George Mason University, wraps up with a point-by-point list of ways that journalists, scientists, and institutions can better convey information to each other and to the public at large. It’s a long list, comprising solutions for those with resources to burn and those operating on shoestring budgets. The book can be downloaded and ordered in hard copy, free of charge, at the Metcalf Institute’s Web site.