How climate correspondents are driving improvements in corporate broadcast news' climate coverage
The impacts and scale of climate change demand accurate and consistent news reporting, yet corporate broadcast networks in recent years have all too often given the issue uneven coverage. However, corporate broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS, and NBC have improved their coverage again in 2022, and dedicated climate correspondents have been an essential part of this progress.
2022 saw morning, evening, and Sunday morning political shows on ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting Co., and NBC spending nearly 23 hours combined discussing climate change — breaking a decade-long trend of year-to-year fluctuation in their climate coverage — thanks in part to the work of their specialized climate correspondents, including Ginger Zee, Ben Tracy, and Anne Thompson.
Climate correspondents bring expertise in the science and policy of climate change, allowing them to provide accurate and in-depth coverage of major headline climate stories, amplify local reporting or unique climate stories to national audiences, and present a more complete picture of how climate is impacting our communities. In addition, they are able to identify important angles and trends that might otherwise be overlooked and to provide context and background information that helps viewers understand the significance of new developments.
Climate correspondents helmed notable 2022 corporate broadcast news segments
Dedicated climate correspondents allow networks to focus on covering the issue with more consistency and substance — their expertise enables them to quickly assess the significance of breaking stories and events related to climate change and to provide timely, accurate, and insightful reporting to the public.
The value of networks having dedicated climate correspondents was demonstrated by their expert analysis and in-depth reporting of climate-related stories in 2022. For example, ABC's chief meteorologist and climate unit managing editor, Ginger Zee, filmed a spring break road trip to demonstrate the benefits and challenges of electric vehicles, detailed how a major drought, which resulted in large swaths of the Mississippi River experiencing record-low water levels, was causing supply chain problems, and featured a family dealing with climate anxiety with an emphasis on ways to cope.
CBS senior national and environmental correspondent Ben Tracy explored the transition to electric vehicles during a January 2022 interview with General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra and reported on why dozens of cities across America were considering a ban on gas appliances.
NBC chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson examined why climate-resilient real estate has become a top concern for North Carolina homeowners concerned about the risks from sea-level rise, showed how last summer’s extreme weather events are connected by global warming, and reported on how world leaders are trying to mitigate climate change.
These segments and others like them demonstrate the value of dedicated climate correspondents in providing accurate, nuanced, and informative reporting on the most pressing issue of our time.
Improved climate change coverage benefits viewers and strengthens news reporting overall
As the climate correspondents on ABC, CBS, and NBC demonstrated in 2022, effective climate reporting can help bridge the gap between scientific research and public understanding by translating technical information into accessible language and providing context for current events and policy decisions. This can help raise awareness about the urgency of addressing climate change and empower individuals to take action in their own lives and communities.
To continue elevating climate coverage, broadcast networks must make consistent use of the climate correspondents they have on staff — especially for stories that seemingly don't have an obvious climate angle, such as the Russian war in Ukraine. Climate was mentioned in relation to the war in Ukraine in only 20 segments in 2022, even as the Russian invasion in February set off a global energy crisis, sending gas and oil prices rocketing and incentivizing many countries to accelerate their investment in clean energy. Given how interconnected climate change is with other major issues such as economics, public health, and geopolitics, climate correspondents are well-positioned to offer unique insights that can illuminate the complex intersections between these topics and help audiences understand the critical role climate change plays in shaping our world.
Networks must also hire more dedicated climate correspondents with specialized knowledge and expertise in climate science and policy and prioritize consistent, in-depth coverage instead of sporadic or surface-level reporting. To broaden the perspectives and issues presented to viewers, networks must seek out more diverse voices, including scientists, activists, and marginalized communities who are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Broadcast news shows must also produce more solutions-oriented reporting that highlights the potential for climate action.
By implementing these specific recommendations, media organizations can significantly enhance their coverage of climate change. Investing in dedicated climate correspondents will ensure that these complex issues are covered more accurately, in-depth, and with greater context. Seeking diverse voices will broaden the range of perspectives on this urgent issue, highlighting the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities and amplifying those working toward solutions. And producing more solutions-oriented reporting will inspire action and demonstrate the potential for meaningful change. Ultimately, these actions will allow broadcast networks to build on their current efforts to give climate correspondents (and meteorologists) the time and resources to produce substantive, informative, and compelling coverage of the climate crisis.