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Surveys Highlight Need for Science Training for Journalists

Reporter taking NotesAWJ2017Two recent surveys conducted by the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University reveal interesting findings about the need for science training among journalists. The results underscore the importance of Metcalf Institute’s work to foster informed conversations about the environment through nationwide training for journalists, especially related to climate change.

The surveys, conducted in March 2018, were designed to identify the needs of journalists who report on climate change as a local issue and the challenges they face in doing so. They targeted members of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), an organization that represents news directors, producers and editors in local TV, radio and/or digital newsrooms.

Not surprisingly, nearly 50% of RTDNA members and 60% of SEJ participants stated that downsizing in news organizations has “created or exacerbated” obstacles to reporting on climate change. Survey participants from both organizations also believe climate change is relevant to numerous news beats including weather, energy, agriculture, food, technology, business, national security and politics.

Eighty-percent of RTDNA members surveyed view “lack of training in climate science” as an important obstacle to reporting on climate change. Even among SEJ members, who generally focus on environmental reporting, lack of training in climate science was an obstacle for 40% of survey respondents.

In addition, 70% of RTDNA members noted lack of access to local sources and to experts as important obstacles to their coverage of climate change stories.

Other key survey findings include:

  • 70% of SEJ members and 60% of RTDNA members have reported on or supervised journalists reporting on a local climate change-related story in the prior 12 months.
  • 65% of those surveyed in both organizations identified lack of time for field reporting as an obstacle.

“I’m grateful to the Center for Climate Change Communication and Climate Matters for providing these insights on a critically important topic,” said Sunshine Menezes, Metcalf Institute executive director. “Their surveys provide valuable data about the widespread need for training like Metcalf’s Climate Change and the News seminars and webinars and will help support our efforts to fund more of these programs to meet the growing needs of journalists and news managers.”

The survey was conducted as part of the Climate Matters in the Newsroom project – a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration between George Mason University, Climate Central, NASA, NOAA, SEJ, RTDNA and other professional societies to enable local, science-based reporting on climate change.