New Publication: Beyond false balance

web_global_environmental_change_rh_218xfreeFinally, the article „Beyond false balance: How interpretive journalism shapes media coverage of climate change” is available online. The article is an outcome of our project “Framing Climate Change” and was published by the journal Global Environmental Change.

The article explores the framing of climate change as a harmful, human-induced risk and the way that reporting handles contrarian voices in the climate debate. The analysis shows how journalists, and their interpretations and professional norms, shape media debates about climate change. The study links an analysis of media content to a survey of the authors of the respective articles. It covers leading print and online news outlets in Germany, India, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland and finds that climate journalism has moved beyond the norm of balance towards a more interpretive pattern of journalism. Quoting contrarian voices still is part of transnational climate coverage, but these quotes are contextualized with a dismissal of climate change denial. Yet niches of denial persist in certain contexts, and much journalistic attention is focused on the narrative of ‘warners vs. deniers,’ and overlooks the more relevant debates about climate change.

Free access to the article is available until February 18th 2017 via this link. Afterwards, the article will be available here.

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Eine Zusammenfassung des Artikels auf Deutsch gibt es auf klimafakten.de

Erste Ergebnisse aus der Tagebuchstudie präsentiert

tagebuch-pixabay-kein-nachweis-notigAuf der European Communication Conference in Prag haben wir erste Ergebnisse aus der Tagebuchstudie des Projekts “Down to Earth” präsentiert. Für den Vortrag wurden die Angaben zu den Gesprächen der 41 Teilnehmer über den Klimawandel analysiert, die sie im Zeitraum der Klimakonferenz in Paris 2015 geführt hatten.

Es hat sich gezeigt, dass – verglichen mit den wenigen bisherigen empirischen Untersuchungen zu Gesprächen über Klimawandel – die Teilnehmer überraschend häufig über das Thema sprachen. Dabei unterschieden sich die Unterhaltungen deutlich je nach der Beziehung zum Gesprächspartner: Mit engen sozialen Kontakten wie Lebenspartnern und Familie sprachen die Befragten vor allem über die Folgen des Klimawandels und mögliche Gegenmaßnahmen, mit Arbeitskollegen und Bekannten unterhielten sie sich eher über die Ursachen und den Klimawandel allgemein. Die Gespräche mit engen Bezugspartnern wurden oft als „gegenseitiger Informationsaustausch“ beschrieben und verliefen konfliktfrei, während in Unterhaltungen mit Bekannten auch gegensätzliche Ansichten aufeinander trafen.

Hier zeigt sich, dass persönliche Gespräche eine wichtige Rolle für die Information der Menschen zum Thema Klimawandel zu spielen scheint – einerseits zur Festigung und Wiederholung von Wissen (etwa mit dem Partner), andererseits auch als Quelle für neue Informationen außerhalb der eigenen Mediennutzung.

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Die European Communication Conference ist eine große internationale Konferenz, die alle zwei Jahre stattfindet.

 

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Recently, we have presented first results from our Down to Earth diary study at the European Communication Conference in Prague. The presentation analyzed data about the 41 participants’ personal conversations about climate change that they noted during the time of the climate conference in Paris 2015.

The results show that the participants talked about the subject more often than expected from previous studies. The conversation topics differed depending on the communication partner: With their partner and family, the respondents talked mostly about climate change effects and their fears and perspectives for the future; the conversations were described as mutual, complementary exchanges. With acquaintances and colleagues, more diverse points of view tended to collide.

This shows that interpersonal communication is an important source for information on climate change – the respondents deepened their knowledge, e.g. with their partner, but also got in contact with different viewpoints than those presented in their own media use.

Down to Earth results featured in “Communication Director”

Artikel_Communication DirectorResults from our Down to Earth study have been featured in an article about the communication of international climate conferences. Imke Hoppe was interviewed as a spokesperson of our team by editor Jan Wisniewski from the magazine “Communication Director” and talked about the public’s perception of the COP21.

Unfortunately, the article is not available for free, but the first two pages can be read in the online preview of the issue (Communication Director 3/2016, pp. 50-54).

New working paper: Climate change in the media

Cover Working Paper Klimawandel in den Medien

Our research group has published a new working paper which summarizes research on climate change in the media.

The questions addressed are how media coverage of climate change contributes to the social construction of climate change, what kind of patterns can be found in the climate change debate and what effects climate change coverage has on the public. It also includes a chapter on Hamburg and Northern Germany as a case study.

The working paper is only available in German and can be downloaded here: Working Paper: Klimawandel in den Medien

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Unsere Forschungsgruppe hat ein neues Working Paper veröffentlicht, das den Forschungsstand zu Klimawandel in den Medien zusammenfasst.

Es widmet sich den Fragen, wie Medienberichterstattung zur sozialen Konstruktion des Klimawandels beiträgt, welche Muster sich in der Klimadebatte zeigen und wie die Berichterstattung über Klimawandel auf die Mediennutzer wirkt. Außerdem befasst sich ein Kapitel mit dem Fallbeispiel Hamburg und Norddeutschland.

Das Working Paper kann hier heruntergeladen werden: Working Paper: Klimawandel in den Medien

Vertrauenskrise der (Klima-)Wissenschaft – oder des Klimajournalismus? Eine Replik

In einem aktuellen Artikel interpretiert Hanno Charisius von der Süddeutschen Zeitung die Ergebnisse des Wissenschaftsbarometers 2016 als ein „Alarmsignal für die aufgeklärte Gesellschaft“ angesichts eines starken Misstrauens gegenüber der Wissenschaft, insbesondere der Klimawissenschaft. Ein genauerer Blick auf die Originaldaten offenbart allerdings, dass diese Schlussfolgerungen kaum gerechtfertigt sind. Zudem zeigen Daten unserer eigenen aktuellen Befragung zum Thema Klimapolitik, dass die Klimawissenschaftler im Gegensatz zu Politikern und Journalisten noch auf ein stabiles Vertrauen seitens der Bevölkerung bauen dürfen.

Zunächst zum aktuellen Wissenschaftsbarometer. Zwar gibt es bei der Interpretation von Befragungsergebnissen immer einen gewissen Spielraum. Aber die von der SZ groß aufgemachte Aussage „48 Prozent der Menschen misstrauen wissenschaftlichen Aussagen zum Klimawandel“ lässt sich aus den Daten der zugrunde liegenden Studie nicht korrekt ableiten. Das Vertrauen wurde in einer Fünferskala abgefragt: von „vertraue voll und ganz“, über „vertraue“, „unentschieden“, „misstraue eher“ bis „misstraue sehr“. Wenn man die beiden äußeren Werte jeweils zusammenfasst, sind es nur 28 Prozent, die eher oder sehr den Aussagen von Wissenschaftlern zum Klimawandel misstrauen, ganze 40 Prozent hingegen vertrauen ihren Aussagen oder vertrauen ihnen sogar voll und ganz. Lediglich wenn man die 31 Prozent Unentschiedenen zu den Misstrauischen rechnet, kommt man auf einen höheren Anteil Skeptiker (allerdings auch nicht auf 48 Prozent, sondern auf 59). Es gibt aber keinen Grund die Unentschiedenen einer Seite zuzuschlagen. Wir wissen einfach nicht, was diese Gruppe genau denkt. Außerdem landen hier immer viele Antworten, da es bei Befragungen mit einer solchen Skala auch eine psychologisch erklärbare Tendenz zur Mitte gibt.

Andere Befragungen stützen gerade den umgekehrten Befund, dass die Wissenschaft von schwindendem Vertrauen im Gegensatz zu anderen Institutionen wie Politik und Journalismus weniger betroffen ist. Dafür sprechen auch aktuelle eigenen Daten, die wir im Rahmen unserer Befragungsstudie „Down to Earth“ erhoben haben. Dort wurden sehr ähnliche Aspekte abgefragt – auch mit einer Fünferskala, bei einer vergleichbar großen Stichprobe (1121 Befragte in der dritten Welle im Januar 2016, verglichen mit 1006 Befragten in der WiD-Studie aus dem Mai 2016), die ebenfalls repräsentativ quotiert wurde. Eine Veröffentlichung unserer Daten ist aktuell noch in Arbeit, aber für diesen Vergleich wollen wir bereits einen Einblick bieten.

In unserer Umfrage zeigt sich folgendes Bild: Dem Statement „Beim Thema Klimapolitik vertraue ich auf die Richtigkeit von Informationen von Klimawissenschaftlern“ stimmen 60 Prozent zu (38% „stimme eher zu“, 22% „stimme voll und ganz zu“). Nur 12 Prozent der Befragten misstrauen der Klimawissenschaft (7% „stimme eher nicht zu“, 5% „stimme überhaupt nicht zu“), 28% sind unentschlossen („teils, teils“). Die Zahlen sind also aus Sicht der Wissenschaft deutlich besser.

Unsere Studie ergänzt die Befunde der anderen Befragung um einen weiteren Aspekt, der auch die Wissenschaftsjournalisten interessieren dürfte: Anders als das Wissenschaftsbarometer haben wir nämlich auch das Vertrauen in Politiker und Medien erhoben, und im direkten Vergleich schneidet die Wissenschaft in unserer Studie sogar sehr gut ab. Beim Thema Klimapolitik vertrauen der Wissenschaft wie bereits erläutert ganze 60 Prozent der Befragten, den Medien vertrauen hingegen nur 28 Prozent und den Politikern sogar nur 21 Prozent.

Unsere "Vertrauens-Fragen" aus der dritten Befragungswelle
Unsere “Vertrauens-Fragen” aus der dritten Befragungswelle

So gesehen zeigt sich also eher eine Vertrauenskrise von Medien und Politik, während die Wissenschaft sogar noch zu den vertrauenswürdigeren Institutionen gehört. Wir geben also den Weckruf gerne zurück an die Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Dem Fazit, das SZ-Autor Hanno Charisius zieht, können wir trotzdem zustimmen: „Wer nicht will, dass die Öffentlichkeit das Vertrauen verliert in das, was in Labors und Denkstuben erschaffen und entdeckt wird, muss seine Türen öffnen und über seine Arbeit reden, muss gegen falsche Fakten und Betrug angehen, sich einmischen in laufende Debatten, darf sich nicht mehr verstecken.“ Genau das ist unsere Absicht mit diesem Blogpost.

Fenja De Silva-Schmidt & Michael Brüggemann

First part of the Online Media Monitor online!

We are proud to announce the release of the first part of our monitor:
a tool which counts all tweets related to climate change on a daily base, lists the domains most linked to in context with climate change, and shows yesterday’s most retweeted climate change tweet.
number of tweets related to climate change per day (April 2016)
The number of tweets related to climate change per day (April 2016)
Check out the tool here.

The Online Media Monitor will be composed of different modules. We are still working on the other modules, especially the tool for analyzing online news media.

“The End of the Beginning” – Booklet with Blog Posts

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Media Watch Blog Booklet

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Winston Churchill

Quite a few commentators of the results of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (November/December 2015) have evoked this quote from Winston Churchill. It seems that, indeed, Paris marks the end of the beginning of debating anthropogenic climate change.

The world’s political leaders have acknowledged the depth and breadth of the problem and have pledged to act. It will be crucial to hold them accountable of their promises: This is a challenge primarily for journalism and civil society. It will also be a challenge for social scientists to observe and analyze this process. Yet, in our role as citizens we may not only describe and explain but also comment on this process.

The idea of the Media Watch Blog was to provide space for both: presenting an analytical view of the media coverage and the debates surrounding COP 21 through the lens of academic observers from social and climate sciences and allowing for comments in our role as citizens that we would not include in our academic publications.

I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the blog for the great work that generated interesting insights into the debate around COP-21.

This booklet with the blog posts preserves the contributions as they appeared (and as they are still available on this site).

At this point in the history of climate politics, it is important not to forget what has been said and promised in Paris.

The Paris agreement has yet to show its impact.
The Paris agreement has yet to show its impact.

Michael Brüggemann

First Working Paper: Before the COP 21

Screenshot_WP DtEHow do German citizens perceive climate change? What do they know about climate politics? And how do they evaluate national and international efforts against climate change?

Within the framework of our “Down to Earth” study, we aimed to answer these and further questions with an online survey with more than 2000 persons, conducted in Germany two weeks before this year’s climate conference in Paris.

We outlined the study’s main results in a short research report (in German) which can be downloaded here: Working Paper “Before the COP21: How Germans evaluate climate politics, what they think and what they know about it”.

Deutsch

 

Vor der UN-Klimakonferenz 2015 (COP 21) – Was die Deutschen von Klimapolitik halten, was sie bewegt und was sie darüber wissen

Wie nehmen die Deutschen den Klimawandel wahr? Was wissen sie über Klimapolitik? Und wie bewerten sie nationale und internationale Bemühungen im Hinblick auf die Bekämpfung des Klimawandels?

Diesen und zahlreichen weiteren Fragen sind wir im Rahmen unserer Studie “Down to Earth” in einer Online-Befragung von mehr als 2000 Personen – durchgeführt in Deutschland zwei Wochen vor der diesjährigen UN-Klimakonferenz in Paris – nachgegangen.

Die zentralen Ergebnisse dieser ersten Befragung haben wir nun in einem kurzen Bericht zusammengefasst, welcher hier abrufbar ist: Arbeitspapier “Vor der UN-Klimakonferenz 2015: Wissen, Einstellungen und Zweifel der Deutschen zum Thema Klimapolitik”

Journalism at the frontlines of civic action

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Post by Dr. Anabela Carvalho

On Saturday morning the COP went past its scheduled finishing time.  With successive postponements of the release of the agreement text (which what was going to be, in all likelihood, a watered down, strategically vague version of what the world needed) I found myself wondering what to do.

Having been all week at Le Bourget conference centre as an observer representing the International Environmental Communication Association, I decided to spend that day on the other side of history, the side of the citizens in the streets of Paris who defiantly organized several demonstrations to express their resolve in struggling for a better planet (eventually authorized by the police the day before).

After being prevented from exiting at my intended metro stop (“closed for security reasons”) and then forced to change plans again as buses modified their routes because of the “manifs”, I was lucky enough to walk right into the frontline of a demonstration.

I was at first curious to check how many journalists were present. There were plenty of cameras but I could only see a couple that looked to belong to professionals. I  soon realized one video belonged to RTP, the Portuguese public service television. A journalist and cameraman were talking to someone I knew and I ended up being recruited to speak live at the start of one o’clock news as “an observer of the COP”. I hesitated for a bit. I had gone to the demonstrations as an anonymous citizen of a globalized world, one more body to engross the demand of respect for “red lines” (a strong activist icon at this COP), and was now pushed back into my other identity, which I thought I had left behind at Le Bourget.

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Citizens claiming agency (besides climate protection) at the December 12 demonstrations, and making me think about how I was asked to speak on TV from a position of privilege.
I was proud to see my country’s public TV awarding much visibility to “civil society” in the stories told about climate change but worried about the kind of image of the day that was going to be constructed.

Two weeks earlier, on the 29 November, the day of the Global Climate March, I had seen that same television company change their normal programming in RTP1 (their main, generalist channel) to connect live to the activists-police clash in the Place de la République in what appeared to be alarmist and sensationalist journalism coverage. There were the police shields,  metal barriers and pepper spray; all the usual ingredients of a news article’s “activism-as-violence” narrative.

As many studies (and our own experience as media consumers) suggest, the “violent protest” frame often subsumes any other layers of meaning and modes of affirmation of citizenship. That media imagery is likely to impact on social representations of activism and of activists, and conduce many people to distance themselves from such practices and profiles. It may even promote disengagement with public causes and claims.

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A critical analysis of activists’ depiction (by a very small group of hooded young men at the 12th of December demonstrations)
In the evening news of RTP1 on 29 November, images of hooded men had opened the coverage. President François Hollande spoke of “disturbing elements”, who were “there to create incidents, not for the climate”. Viewers were told that protesters’ confrontations with police had resulted in arrests and a few wounded people. To be fair, there was also a good amount of coverage of the marches in Portuguese cities (and worldwide), with constructive interviews of some participants. I looked at the news in other public service broadcasters such as BBC World, Deutsche Welle and France 24 and found some references but few outlets placed much emphasis on the “violent protests” (it must be noted that this comparison is not fully adequate as unlike RTP1 these are “news-only” channels and they may have changed their reporting throughout the day).

Back to last Saturday: As I walked with RTP’s crew ahead of the demonstration, I kept wondering about the thought process behind the symbolic construction of the footage of protesters that occurs at different levels of the journalistic and editorial hierarchy within the public service broadcaster. I also thought about what I was going to say and what persona I was going to take up in the screens of one of the biggest channels back in Portugal. There was the “me, the citizen” that was frustrated and had political claims to make. But that was not what the journalist wanted me to speak as. There was the “the academic” side of me that could make a “cooler” analysis of the situation. But an analysis of what? I am a communications scholar and that was not what the journalist wanted me to speak as/about. She wanted me to talk about the agreement. So the “the observer” side of me kept thinking about the observer communities back at the COP and what they thought about draft versions of the agreement.

The UNFCCC awards observer status to multiple types of organizations: business and industry non-governmental organizations (BINGOs), environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), local government and municipal authorities (LGMAs), indigenous peoples organizations (IPOs), research and independent non-governmental organizations (RINGOs), trade union non-governmental organizations (TUNGOs), farmers and agricultural non-governmental organizations (Farmers), women and gender non-governmental organizations (Women and Gender) and youth non-governmental organizations (YOUNGOs). The nine UNFCCC “constituencies” have, obviously, widely diverse views in many regards. Plus, each of them is a loose group of actors with multiple perspectives and preferred discourses. Furthermore, observers to the COP are not the same as observers to elections: they are there to try to influence the outcome in one way or the other even though they are given very little voice in the process.

I had gone to side events and press conferences by different types of observers throughout the COP and heard the frustration of many of them towards the emerging text. However, as I wrote in another blog post, RINGOs (the constituency I was part of through IECA), were supposedly not advocating a particular outcome, a non-position that makes me wonder whether all of its members identify with it.

Coming back to my live interview, I didn’t have long to reflect upon which observer identity to take up. The microphone was in front of me for a predictably short time after references to a “report” of a girl “beaten up” by the police (which the journalist did not appear to be well informed about) and to the police helicopter up in the air. I ended up sounding more like the academic than a citizen but inserted cautionary “observer” points just before the helicopter was mentioned again.

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Polar bear turned journalist or (maybe) “another journalism is possible”, 12 December 2015

 That evening I watched France24 for several hours, anticipating the celebratory, triumphalist tone and the symbolic dividends that France was going for.

There was nothing about the large, peaceful demonstrations that had taken place a few hours earlier. Looking at the websites of other public broadcasters the story was pretty much the same.

 

What can Google Trends tell us about COP21?

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Blog by Bastian Kiessling

COP21 in Paris ended on Saturday night with a global pact to reduce emissions and keep global warming below two degrees.

It was the first time that all 196 participating countries agreed on such a deal and as such now is a good time to reflect on the eventful two weeks.

While it is too early to be enthusiastic, from my perspective the Paris agreement is an important and essential step in the right direction. Many scientists see the agreement as a surprising success but they leave to us whether this “historic achievement(Lord Stern) will be a binding contract for the future. For that to occur, at least 55 parties which produce over 55% of the world’s greenhouse gasses, must become party to the agreement.

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Ban Ki-moon, François Hollande and other leaders after reaching an agreement in Paris

This post will examine possible directions the debate will shift in the coming years. I will analyse and critically reflect on media coverage from COP21 and focus on public attention over time, based on data from Google Trends. Google Trends is a public web facility that provides information how often a specific search-term is entered into the Google search screen relative to total search-volume.  The data is presented as a score between 0 and 100.

Google Trends cannot present an absolute number of queries but the search interest could be seen as an indicator for public attention on different topics or terms. However we should interpret the data carefully and should use the tool more like a starting point for research in the field of communication science.

Figure 1 (below) shows the search interest for the term Climate change over the past three years.

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We can see some ups and down in 2013 and 2014 but overall the attention stays at a low level. On the right end of the figure, with the start of the COP21, the search interest reaches its maximum. We can therefore reasonable assume that the conference in Paris had a big influence on the public interest about climate change.  If we look back on the past climate conferences in Warsaw (11.11-23.11.2013) or Lima (01.12-12.12.2014) we cannot see any attention peaks. Here we can ask, for example, if the public agenda is more affected by the event itself or the media coverage which usually increases during the events? Further, we should look at what other factors influence Google Trends? Figure 2 shows a comparison for the search terms Climate change and Paris agreement for the last seven days.

figure2We can observe a rise of the search-interest for both terms in the crucial period of the conference. The public started to google Paris agreement with the beginning of the last day of the conference just after the participants defined this term and also after the announcement that an agreement between the participating countries is realistic. These developments also affected the public attention for climate change in general. The decreasing search interest at the end of the conference could be explained with the issue attention cycle. Climate change will be replaced at the center of public awareness by different issues like the conflict in Syria or the refugee crisis.