As Midwestern states assess the damage wrought by record flooding in recent weeks, scientists tell Media Matters that the media has missed an important part of the story: the impact of climate change. A Media Matters analysis finds that less than 3 percent of television and print coverage of the flooding mentioned climate change, which has increased the frequency of large rain storms and exacerbated flood risks.
Seven out of eight scientists interviewed by Media Matters agreed that climate change is pertinent to coverage of recent flooding in the Midwest. Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer told Media Matters it is "not only appropriate, but advisable" for the press to note that rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency and that climate models "suggest this trend will continue," which will contribute to more flooding. Aquatic ecologist Don Scavia added that this is the "new normal," and that the media is "missing an important piece of information" by ignoring this trend.
Indeed, climate change has been almost entirely absent from national and local reporting on the floods. Only one of 74 television segments mentioned climate change, on CBS News. ABC, NBC and CNN never mentioned the connection.
Meanwhile, USA TODAY was the only national print outlet to report on Midwest floods in the context of climate change. USA TODAY also created a video, featured above, explaining the connection as part of a year-long series on the impacts of climate change.
The Midwest has experienced near record flooding this spring, resulting in four deaths, extensive property damage, and disruptions of agriculture and transportation. Evidence suggests that manmade climate change has increased the frequency of heavy downpours, and will continue to increase flooding risks. But in their ample coverage of Midwestern flooding, major media outlets rarely mentioned climate change.
In at least 40 instances since the beginning of 2011, conservative media outlets wrongly told consumers that the light bulb efficiency standards scheduled to take effect in 2012 will require them to use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).
Many media figures have dubbed President Obama's health care reform proposal "ObamaCare," reinventing the terms "HillaryCare" and "ClintonCare" that were used by opponents of the Clintons' reform proposal. In doing so, these media are often seeking to frame the debate in negative terms.
Several media figures have echoed the sexist notion that Sen. Joe Biden will have to soften his tone and manner in a debate against Gov. Sarah Palin, in contrast with the tougher tone he could take if the Republican vice-presidential nominee were male.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Sen. John McCain spoke out against "land swaps, worthless land for valuable land" in connection with the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and that "McCain is still a watchdog when it comes to federal spending, but he is a supporter of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, said his spokesman, Tucker Bounds." But the article did not note that McCain has himself reportedly facilitated land-swap deals that benefited wealthy developers who were major McCain donors.
Several media figures have falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama contradicted previous statements when he said during a March 18 speech on race: "Did I ever hear him [Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor] make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes." In fact, Obama previously asserted he had not been present for particular statements Wright made that were repeated by various media outlets and that spurred the recent controversy. He did not claim to have never heard Wright make "remarks that could be considered controversial."
The Chicago Sun-Times uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's assertion that Sen. Barack Obama is "the most liberal Democrat in the United States Senate." However, the Sun-Times made no mention of the fact that the National Journal, which ranked Obama "the most liberal senator in 2007," said that McCain "did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score."
Media Matters for America has identified numerous media outlets or figures who reported that the National Journal has rated Sen. Barack Obama "the most liberal senator in 2007," but did not report that the same National Journal feature stated that Sen. John McCain "did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score. He missed more than half of the votes in both the economic and foreign-policy categories."
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jennifer Hunter listed several "criticisms" that have been leveled against Sen. Barack Obama since he launched his presidential campaign, including "Obama's relationship with indicted Wilmette businessman Tony Rezko, who had helped launch his political career; the veracity of characters in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father; and some of his personal investments, which relied to some extent on federal-government funding." However, Hunter did not discuss key facts that call into question the legitimacy of these "criticisms" of Obama.