Environment

A Climate Soap Opera in the Headlines

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMay 7, 2012 6:29 PM

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Bud Ward, the editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, weighs in on the Heartland billboard furor:

What stands out amidst the initial widespread revulsion is that the criticisms of Heartland's effort came not only by the usual cadre of what climate skeptics dismissively call "warmists," but also by those ideologically in synch with the group. In addition to their disgust with the message, of course, came their disappointment that the billboard had handed Heartland's many adversaries a useful weapon of criticism.

Indeed, this disappointment is quite evident in the comment threads at various blog sites. I think I read one person ruefully lament that there was no way to unring this bell. And Heartland can't stop the bell from ringing, either, because it has thus far refused to acknowledge its blunder, much less apologize. It seems it will get worse for them before it gets better (if at all). On an unrelated note, I have a short piece up today, as well, at the Yale Forum. It's about an enterprising journalism project that I'll be watching with much interest. Lastly, also new at the site is discussion of the "striking" results of a recent study that found six distinct climate change storylines that have played out on broadcast television news the last decade. It's an important data point for climate media scholars and everyone else interested in how climate change gets translated on TV. As the piece explains:

The premise of the study is that we humans are, whatever else we are, story-telling animals: We make sense of, form beliefs about, and establish our stances on issues such as climate change less on the basis of reason or experience and more on the basis of the stories we subscribe to. Moreover, the news media are, whatever else they are, purveyors of story, always on the lookout for a narrative angle that will capture the attention of viewers, listeners, or readers.

That's right. Journalists are always on the prowl for a good story. People who accuse us of left/right/center bias should never forget that. What we care about, above all, is the story. That also explains why the current Heartland saga or Climategate, or the latest weather disaster are always natural story fodder.

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