Media Matters’ Evlondo Cooper discusses broadcast news' lack of attention to people of color and environmental justice with A Rude Awakening

Cooper: Corporate broadcast networks should help their audiences “to better understand how and why communities of color are facing greater risks from climate change”

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A Rude Awakening-3-31-23-ClimateBroadcast-EnviroJustice
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Citation From the March 31, 2023, episode of KPFA's "A Rude Awakening"

SABRINA JACOBS (HOST, A RUDE AWAKENING): We got a few more minutes here in this segment with Evlondo Cooper … and he's imparting his knowledge on the latest, latest reports that came out in — or, reflecting 2022, I should say. The first one is “How broadcast TV networks covered climate change in 2022,” that was released on February 28 of this year, and the other released on March 16 of this year, entitled “How broadcast TV news covered environmental justice in 2022.” So let's go ahead and close this segment out, Evlondo, and talk about the coverage lacking people of color as guests. Please go ahead.

EVLONDO COOPER (SENIOR RESEARCHER, MEDIA MATTERS): Yeah. This is a year-to-year trend that, you know, fluctuates a little bit, but it’s still a sore spot for their coverage. And, you know, I think about why that is, and ways it can be improved, and I think most importantly is understanding that — and this is something that I learned talking to other other journalists about this — is that it probably results from the fact that a lot of these newsrooms fail to include diverse voices in identifying, developing, and producing these stories. They have their own biases in the way they like to frame stories and oftentimes these stories are missing that important climate contextualization.

And it's one of the things that they can do to improve is to recognize that you need journalists and reporters and correspondents and producers that have specialized knowledge of climate change, that are familiar with the unique challenges faced by vulnerable communities in the country, and are able to package these stories and provide the context for their audiences to better understand how and why communities of color are facing greater risks from climate change.

And another thing they can do is to elevate those voices, like we were talking about with showing the impact on their frontline communities. It's important to elevate voices from either those communities or groups that represent the interests of those communities so that people can hear for themselves what and why and what these communities need to recover from climate disasters, to build climate resiliency, to mitigate the worst impacts.

So, you know, I think that number, the fact that guests of color are still very limited in climate impacts, outside of kind of impacted and frontline footage, shows just how far they have to go to bridge that gap and why it's so necessary that they do so.

JACOBS: So Evlondo, let's jump right back into it. Corporate broadcast news shows only aired 12, 12 environmental justice segments. Talk to us about that. Go ahead.

COOPER: Yeah, like we were saying. I can definitely say there have been improvements in climate coverage. Cannot make that same statement about environmental justice coverage. I think the low number of segments generally about environmental justice, particularly in 2022, just reflect a lack of understanding about the connection between environmental justice and other important issues such as public health, economic policy.

And it also reflects a lack of representation of communities most affected, low-income communities and communities of color, by environmental injustice in newsrooms and among decision makers. So I think this contributes to why there is a lack of resources, time, commitment, attention dedicated to covering environmental justice and why we don't see very much in-depth coverage about this topic.

To see the full analysis of how broadcast networks covered climate change in 2022 and how broadcast networks covered environmental justice in 2022, click here and here.