Media Matters’ Evlondo Cooper joins “A Rude Awakening” to discuss why and how national TV news can improve its climate and environmental justice coverage

Cooper: Coverage of the Jackson water crisis “didn't make the larger case that what happened in Jackson is not an anomaly, but it's part of a broader pattern of systemic neglect in vulnerable and poor communities across the country.”

Full Episode here.

A Rude Awakening--February 3, 2023

A Rude Awakening--February 3, 2023
Audio file

Citation From the February 3, 2023, episode of KPFA's "A Rude Awakening"

SABRINA JACOBS (HOST, A RUDE AWAKENING) : Is there enough reporting on the climate crisis from the perspective of those most affected by it? Is the public seeing their faces reflected in whatever latest media stunt Greta Thunberg is engaging in? Those are a few of the questions — very pointed questions — we should be asking ourselves as the climate crisis looms at every doorstep, forever changing the landscape of our world as we know it. This is becoming more real with every passing day and cannot be ignored. We've got the Jackson water crisis, we’ve got the grid failure in Puerto Rico, and we’ve got power outages affecting millions in Texas. How have they or how are they being reported? Well, in my opinion and a lot of folks' opinions, not adequately enough. Here to talk about it, we have Evlondo Cooper. Evlondo Cooper is a senior researcher for the Climate and Energy Program at Media Matters for America, a nonprofit media watchdog organization that reports on what’s not being reported by corporate media. Evlondo Cooper, thank you so much for being on A Rude Awakening

EVLONDO COOPER (SENIOR RESEARCHER, MEDIA MATTERS): Thank you for having me. I'm looking forward to our discussion. 

JACOBS: Absolutely. Now let's start with your article entitled “The Jackson Water Crisis is an environmental justice story and national TV news missed an opportunity to cover it that way.” 

“They failed to cover it that way.” “Environmental injustice.” Environmental racism. Talk to us.

COOPER: Yeah, what you see in a lot of environmental justice coverage — because our methodology sometimes is generous — we look for a connection between what's happening and an affected demographic community. So even that hour and eight minutes kind of overstates how good a job they did, frankly. What we saw, particularly in Jackson, was most of the coverage that actually mentioned race was just a brief demographic mention. It would say that, you know, “Jackson's 80% Black and 25% poor,” but very few of the segments that we monitored actually dove in to get to the heart of why this community was facing another water crisis. They didn't discuss the systemic ills that have plagued communities like Jackson for decades. They didn't talk about accountability, who's at fault for this. And even though it amplified — it interviewed people in the community, it didn't actually amplify the voices of those people in the community that are working against environmental injustices like this. … And I guess most importantly, it didn't connect what happened in Jackson to what's happening in thousands of communities across the country that are dealing with water issues or air quality issues, lead, chemical contamination. And it didn't make the larger case that what happened in Jackson is not an anomaly, but it's part of a broader pattern of systemic neglect in vulnerable and poor communities across the country.

To see the full analysis of the Jackson water crisis, click here.