Ethical Journalism …


Media manipulation, its impact on the scientific research of climate change and how this research reaches and affects an educated or uneducated audience is one under much debate. Documentation of initial and ongoing politics of global media coverage that surrounds climate change, the imbalance in its analysis, its response to legislative initiatives and the fluctuating, impermanence of global warming stories present in the mainstream media show substantial discrepancies in accuracy and integrity. Such errors begin to intensify when the ability to manipulate a global audience on such an important environmental level flourish far more frequently, be this sensationalised, underestimated or ‘falsely balanced.’

The idea of ‘false balance’ – the “over simplified notion of providing ‘balance’ in reporting on news involving different perspectives, journalists increasingly and rightly, take their clues from the leading and acknowledged scientific experts” which show global warming is actually occurring, but still proceed to show the minority percentage who disagree, as a somewhat majority opposition. Political scientists are especially sensitive to the way in which the media handles this issue, fearing that the media shape the publics perception of what is important while accurate scientific research is drifting far from their spotlight, allowing ignorance to take its place. 

Here is a short clip that illustrates the extent of this by professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University; Stephen Schnieder. 

Most people do not read scientific reports, specialist web­sites and blogs, or the reports of the IPCC, they turn to what would be expected to be a ‘straightforward’ and ‘concise’ version in a daily newspaper or report, however, most news labels and corporations only tailor their stories to suit their payrolls, it is their first priority to prosper as a business, presenting a reliable article or television segment with honest facts and proven research does not always provide this.

It is concluded by Ward in his article on climate change reporting that the ethical principles facing this issue will “play out over the coming years and decades in light of the pressures the mainstream news media (MSM) are currently facing remains uncertain. But what remains a veritable certainty is that, without the acknowledged credibility …an interested citizenry inevitably will have to turn elsewhere for its information.”

Just where that might be is anyone’s guess.


-Ward, B, 2009, “Journalism ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty”, Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, vol. 9 13-15

-Nell, T. Gavin, 2009, “Addressing climate change: a media perspective”, Environmental Politics, vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 765-780.


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