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3 new Fellows' papers now online

17 Dec 2010

Journalist fellows have published three new papers on the RISJ website. The first two offer original research on climate change and the media: the first is an evaluation of the impact of 'Climategate' on British journalists, and the second is a study on how little climate change is reported in the Nigerian and South African print media, and the reasons for it.  The third is a study of how the state intervenes – or not – in three European countries (the UK, France and Romania).

Details are as follows:

Margot O'Neill, a journalist with the ABC in Australia, has written an insightful and very readable study called 'A Stormy Forecast' of how 'Climategate' (the illegal hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia in late 2009) has affected the reporting of climate change by British journalists and editors. Based on semi-structured interviews with 14 journalists and 14 other specialists, Margot aims to answer two key questions: 'What are the problems with climate change reporting? And how can reporters better engage audiences in the future?' In the course of her research, Margot found that half of the journalists described 'ClimateGate' as a game changer in their reporting of climate change; half believed their media organisations missed the story or took too long to cover it; and half said they were either giving sceptics more coverage since 'ClimateGate' or were more open to their points of view. The study includes interesting ideas on how to (re-) engage an audience often showing signs of climate fatigue. And Margot predicts that the issue will force itself back on the editorial agenda because of a series of 'titanic struggles' to come. Among them are 'the biggest global energy transformation since the industrial revolution, the reformation of an inward-looking scientific community to accept greater transparency and robust public debate and explanation, and the great ideological clash over climate change theory including right-wing fears that it is a front for left-wing eco-fascism.' 

Evelyn Tagbo, a Nigerian journalist who has worked for BusinessDay and BusinessEye, has written a detailed study of how the print media in two African countries report climate change. In her study 'Media Coverage of Climate Change in Africa: A Case Study of Nigeria and South Africa', Evelyn monitored the amount of coverage in two Nigerian newspapers (the Guardian and Vanguard) and in two South African newspapers (the Star and the Mail and Guardian) in two three-month periods in 2009 and 2010. In Nigeria, the two papers published 79 articles on climate change, equivalent to less than 0.1% of the total number of articles published on the online sites of the two newspapers during that period. Likewise, the two South African newspapers published slightly more (96), but this still only represented 0.3% of the total number of articles. She also found that in Africa, the controversies about climate change science in the Western media due to 'Climategate' and 'Himalayagate' made only a very slight impact on climate change coverage.  Evelyn concludes that 'the bulk of the publications on the subject even in African newspapers and magazines are culled from foreign institutions and researchers. The problem is that much-needed local angles to the issue are often left out.' 

Miruna Munteanu, a Romanian journalist and columnist for Jurnalul Naţional, one of the last broadsheets surviving the deepening print crisis in her country, has written a comparative study of the problems facing the UK, French and Romanian print media.  Written during her fellowship in summer 2010 and entitled 'Media in Crisis: should the state intervene?', Miruna's paper examines the different levels and types of state subsidy offered to the newspaper industry in the three countries. After a detailed examination of the very different situation in France and the UK,  Miruna concludes that 'In Romania, on the other hand, politicians in power seem quite happy to watch the media industry die. Not only did they not offer any State support for the press, but the government is actually raising taxes.' She argues that the biggest divide is not between libertarian versus interventionist policies, but about whether or not the State cares to have an independent press.  And she makes a final trenchant observation that 'as for the media, all Romanian governments so far asked it to be libertarian in its financing, but socially responsible in its editorial choices. In fact, what they really wished for was a press obedient to political power.'