Media Matters’ Evlondo Cooper joins The Climate Pod to discuss climate coverage in 2023 and a look ahead to 2024

Cooper: 2023 “was a little concerning. I feel like they fell back into some of those same patterns of failing to connect extreme weather, of failing to provide these kinds of important climate moments ... the coverage they deserve."

Full Episode here

The Climate Pod-12-28-23

The Climate Pod-12-28-23
Audio file

Citation From the December 28, 2023, episode of The Climate Pod

BROCK BENEFIEL (HOST, THE CLIMATE POD) : On the other side, on the flip side of that,  just recently, just within the last month, we've seen so many layoffs, especially of climate journalists, investigative reporters. We've seen this at Vox and Washington Post and CBC, Conde Nast. Like we’re seeing really good climate media — if not entirely disappear — be somewhat, resources being diminished.

And it just makes me very nervous about the way climate will be covered in the United States and in so many other countries if there are not more journalists being hired to cover climate, more good journalists having the time and the resources that they need to cover climate. And I just always get really worried about the business models for journalism, just writ large.

I had this conversation with Jane Glove a couple weeks ago talking about local journalism and, with climate journalism, this show would not exist without amazing climate journalists who are doing the real work, the real investigative work that is time-intensive, and it's resource-intensive. and it's really, really hard. I think that there's like a chilling effect when you see these layoffs to someone even wanting to do this work. I'll just open it up, though, to a bigger question of if you see any bigger trends unfolding in climate media that we should be aware of as we go into 2024.

EVLONDO COOPER (SENIOR RESEARCHER, MEDIA MATTERS): You know, it's interesting just speaking on that, I think any of these individuals who've done this amazing reporting would be an asset for any major news organization that's looking to deepen their climate reporting. I mean, to me this is an easy way to instantly 10x, 100x your reporting. And it does concern me as well, this kind of consolidation of media, the laying off of investigative reporters, people that kind of really dig in and do the hard work of exposing waste, fraud, and abuse, of exposing the fossil fuel industry. And it's concerning as well.

And as far as trends, I don't know. I think it sounds like a broken record. I think, you know, we've seen improvement in the last two years, specifically around broadcast coverage of climate. This year was a little concerning. I feel like they fell back into some of those same patterns of failing to connect extreme weather, of failing to provide these kinds of important climate moments, like the National Climate Assessment, COP28, the coverage they deserve. Missing big climate policy stories.

And so I think going forward, it's critical. I'll tell you one trend that excites me, and I hope that it translates over to how the media covers climate change. There are increasingly large number of polls being produced that show that majorities of Americans, including a majority of Republican or conservative Americans, are concerned about climate change and want to see something happen. And I think that reality has to penetrate the way national TV news networks cover climate change because despite what they say, people are concerned. But they don't want to just watch the doom and gloom all the time. They want to know what they can do. They want to feel empowered. They want to feel engaged. They want the government to do something about it. So you should be asking the politicians on your show, “What are you going to do to address the concerns of your constituents who are tired of seeing these extreme weather events happening in their communities, who want stronger climate policies, who want clean energy, and renewable energy?”

And so I think that's a trend, a positive trend, that if these broadcast networks and cable news networks were smart, they would respond to the will of what their viewers want. And instead of saying, “Oh, it's a ratings killer,” or. “Nobody really—” produce the reporting, and then people will come. You know, you have a podcast like yours and many others that have really great audiences who are concerned about this.

A lot of these folks migrated away from cable news and broadcast news because they no longer, you know, discuss the things that are important to them or has the depth that's important to them. And if you want to see some of that audience return, address some of the things that are important to them, like climate change, and do deep and substantive reporting because people do care, they are concerned, and they want to see something done.