Americans want more and better environmental reporting; help us get some


Advocating for improved reporting on the environment is central to my job at Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.

But apparently most of you agree that it’s a good idea.

In fact, nearly 80 percent of Americans believe news coverage of the environment should be improved, according to a national poll commissioned by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage.

The Opinion Research Corp. conducted the poll April 14-15. And, full disclosure, I’m among a group of environmental journalism professionals who helped craft a vision for the organization that commissioned it.

“This poll tells us that there is a shared common interest in being better informed about environmental issues,” Tyson Miller, the project director, wrote in a news release. “News organizations act as filters for what we perceive as important and improving the quality of environmental coverage not only has significant social value but it’s also something news consumers want.”

Age, location and education made little difference in what the poll found. A slightly higher percentage of non-whites expressed greater concern about the state of environmental reporting.

The project also notes that the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism reports news coverage of the environment fell from 2 percent of news stories in 2010 to 1 percent in 2011.

There are lots of reasons that so many news consumers are dissatisfied with coverage of the environment.

And I don’t want to detail any of them here. At least not now.

Instead, I’m asking for your help in a small step toward improving climate change coverage in our Great Lakes region. Our environmental journalism center and the Society of Environmental Journalists are running two workshops this summer for regional journalists and scientists interested in improving that reporting.

Part of the plan is to improve the climate change literacy of journalists and give them access to recent newsy climate change issues. Part of it is to improve the communication skills of scientists and foster a desire within them to communicate with journalists and the public.

And a big part of it is to foster a greater understanding in each group of the other group’s challenges for communicating climate change issues. You and other Great Lakes regional news consumers can benefit from all those things.

Better yet, you can help get them.

Here’s how: Invite a Great Lakes scientist or journalist to apply to attend one of these sessions. It’s a pretty good deal. They are underwritten by the National Science Foundation and are part of a Climate Change Education Partnership, a group of Great Lakes educators encompassing experts in K-12 and university education, scientists and experts at museums, zoos and aquariums.

The participation by the Knight Center and the SEJ comes by defining journalists as informal educators of the public.

The first workshop is June 9 in Cleveland. The official deadline just passed, but there is yet time to get into the mix this week. We are particularly interested in expanding the pool of regional scientists interested in climate change communications. Journalists and scientists can learn more and apply here.

The second one is July 9 and 10 at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Laboratory, a Long Term Ecological Research Station supported by the National Science Foundation. More details will be coming on that one, but you can get on the list at the URL referenced in the Cleveland announcement above.

So tell your favorite Great Lakes scientists or journalists that you’re part of the 80 percent who want to read more and better coverage of the environment. Perhaps better yet, tell some that aren’t your favorites. Maybe you’ll like them better after we get through with them.

Regardless, tell them that you need them to help figure out how to get better and more climate change coverage into Great Lakes media.

9 thoughts on “Americans want more and better environmental reporting; help us get some

  1. I would like to see the truth in what they do tell us. This current push to fill lake Michigan back up with alewives (an Invasive species)
    The DNR public statementt is “But only to safe levels that don’t affect native fish” The fact they fail to mention, is “thier safe level” is 500 kilotons of alewives. There is no safe level for any invasive species. The minimum required to sustain salmon, is 123 pounds of alewives per salmon,to get to 17 pounds in 3 years, they fail to mention that also.

  2. Can citizens who are interested and not a professional scientist or journalist attend?

  3. Great admiration goes out to Mayor Hartwell of Grand Rapids Michigan in his leadership. Hartwell is a mentor of mine although I have never met the man I have heard him speak to his accomplishments adding much more content about his ambitions for the future via “children”. Children are above all the most important asset to sustainability. To begin a conversation about children “Do we value, how much do we value, how highly do we value and are our children a priority?” — Mayor Hartwell

    Social Equity

    We can spend millions if not billions of dollars on cleaning up a polluted world, take credit in donating, upload a video of our progress, be a Environmental journalist but is it truly sustainable?

    Earth Day is sustainable if you place it the ears of children!

    At what cost does it really impact people when there is no accountability of educational needs for children. If a fractional amount of all the revenues spent on environmental clean ups in the United States had not been given to the most affluent of persons our children could have referenced computers, books, and unmistakeable knowledge of our short comings.

    We can not merely change our coarse by throwing money at the problem or writing articles alone. Today’s pollutants harness us to what may never be accomplish because of it’s severity. To place a duty upon our selves to educate our children of their social equity we can pass the torch with confidence. The help of Mother Earth and more money directed towards educating our children may contrive a more sustainable approach.

  4. Having kids & grand kids, this topic is so important.Sad that the government couldn’t stop so much waste of our tax dollars & apply some of it to support such important issues.

  5. This sounds like a good program. But is there a place where people can make suggestions about other topics for Great Lakes Echo to cover?

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