Ward closed the discussion with the point that, “Climate change was clearly a hot issue in the news media [over the last few years]—it is no longer. It seems to have fallen off the radar in a lot of newsrooms. I hear people saying the public has ‘climate fatigue.’” The way for journalists to restore some the issue’s prominence, as the panelists uniformly agreed, is to expand climate coverage across the newsroom. “Show me a traditional beat that doesn’t cover an issue that affects the climate or is affected by the climate,” Ward challenged.
For its part, the American Museum of Natural History just launched its first ever blog as part of its current climate change exhibition, which closes August 16. After the panel, I asked the museum’s interim director of public programs, Ellen Silbermann, why the museum had decided to host a panel focused on climate journalism rather than the science itself.
“We always start with a program that creates a foundation of knowledge and comprehension, then move on to other issues,” she wrote in an e-mail. “During the research process, which coincided with the campaign for president, I was disappointed in the lack of discussion regarding climate change - and proposed a panel that would discuss how it is (or isn’t) reported. We only scratched the surface last night - I’m still very interested in the ideas that were just touched upon.”
Indeed, climate journalists still have a lot of work ahead of them. As such, I’d love to hear comments from reporters and editors about things they’ve learned in the course of their work that can be applied to improve future coverage.