Saturday, March 14, 2015

Can Rochester journalism dare speak the name ‘Climate Change’?


CCNameSThe question is NOT why The Guardian (one of the largest media in the world) is putting Climate Change front and center; It’s why aren’t all the other media doing so also? The media industry is bemoaning the loss of journalism as a career, but the reason journalism is tanking is that most journalism has devolved into a lapdog for businesses, sports, politicians, and pet owners, instead of ferreting out the most important news the public needs to know: Climate Change.

Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre As global warming argument moves on to politics and business, Alan Rusbridger explains the thinking behind our major series on the climate crisis Journalism tends to be a rear-view mirror. We prefer to deal with what has happened, not what lies ahead. We favour what is exceptional and in full view over what is ordinary and hidden. Famously, as a tribe, we are more interested in the man who bites a dog than the other way round. But even when a dog does plant its teeth in a man, there is at least something new to report, even if it is not very remarkable or important. There may be other extraordinary and significant things happening – but they may be occurring too slowly or invisibly for the impatient tick-tock of the newsroom or to snatch the attention of a harassed reader on the way to work. (March 6, 2015) The Guardian

The tick-tock of Climate Change is moving relentless on even in Rochester. But you would be hard- pressed to discover what that means here. What does Climate Change portend here, how do we adapt to it, and how do we act on a scale and speed that will matter? What are the changes already observed here, what are the changes coming locally, what are we doing about it, what can we do about it, how does this mother of all problems influence our politics, our infrastructure, wildlife, poverty, and public health?  Like Florida, where there’s a ban on officials mentioning this powerful word, other communities like Rochester are OK with dealing with the symptoms of this warming (as they must) but not its causes. Because our media has been unable or unwilling to tackle Climate Change, this term, like many other terms, has taken on mythical powers that get in the way of solutions:

What Voldemort and Climate Change Have in Common At Hogwarts and in Florida, respectively, the threatening phenomena must not be named. For Oscar Wilde and his fellow aesthetes of Victorian England, there was the love that dare not speak its name. For the wary wizards and witches of Harry Potter’s world, there was he-who-must-not-be-named. And for Florida bureaucrats, there is the phenomenon that cannot be named, in spite of the fact many of them are attempting to prepare for its inevitable effects on the low-lying land. An in-depth report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, published Sunday in the Miami Herald, reports officials in the state’s Department of Environmental Protection “have been ordered not to use the term ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in any communications, e-mails, or reports.” (March 10, 2015) Pacific Standard

You’ll have to go somewhere other than Rochester’s media to find about Climate Change because our media dares not say the name of Climate Change. (Warning: blatant self-serving mention coming!) You can go to my site,, which has connected the dots on this issue since 1998. You can take a free online course, like I am, “Changing Weather and Climate in the Great Lakes Region” by University of Wisconsin–Madison on Coursera. Not only do you get the facts and data about our region’s weather and climate, you get a great opportunity to converse with folks all over the world on how this issue is being experienced and addressed in their neck of the woods. You can read Climate Change briefs so you can get the basics about this worldwide crisis--check out the National Academics’ “Climate Change: Evidence, Impacts, and Choices.” You can read all these Climate Change studies and go to all these media around the world, but alas you will be stymied if you want to get informed about it from your local media.

Climate Change should come home to Rochester so we can address it in situ. Local journalists should actually be our ‘watch dogs, search through mounds of data, identify problems in our community, and hold our public officials accountable’.

Introducing our new NYDatabases website This weekend we're launching a new website called, a collaboration among journalists at Gannett news outlets across New York state and our news bureau in Albany. It's an expansion of the work we started in Rochester more than five years ago, a website called RocDocs, which housed searchable collections of information related to local events. This new site will help us expand those efforts statewide, and help our team of watchdog reporters work together to bring you enhanced coverage of statewide issues. As journalists, we work with mountains of data to help us spot trends, identify problems in our community and to hold public officials accountable. We've been publishing these sorts of data sets to enable readers to dive deeper into subjects of interest. (March 13, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

They aren’t. Rare is the day a public official gets asked by local media what they are doing to combat Climate Change. I doubt our politicians, even within their own parties, will say the word amongst themselves. No one is pressing them to do so. Never does our media connect the dots between local efforts to address Climate Change and worldwide efforts. In fact, go to the database mentioned above [] and type in “Climate Change” or even “Climate”. Nothing. This new database dares not mention the name.

There is no excuse for the dearth of Climate Change news locally. These folks from the Yale project on Climate Change Communication focus entirely on closing the gap between climate science and informing the public. If you don’t have time to check out the whole site or watch this informative video, here’s the very short version: “The Big Five facts of Climate Change: It’s real, it’s us, it’s bad, scientists agree, and there’s hope.” (From Anthony Leiserowitz on the public's perception of climate change - MIT Climate CoLab conference)

Getting back to The Guardian, let’s get a sense of the level of change in journalism that needs to happen.

Find a new way to tell the story' - how the Guardian launched its climate change campaign Climate change is the biggest story journalism has never successfully told. The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has decided to change that. This podcast series follows Rusbridger and his team as they set out to find a new narrative on the greatest threat to humanity Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity. Yet journalism has struggled for two decades to tell a story that doesn’t leave the public feeling disheartened and disengaged. This podcast series lets you behind the scenes as the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, and team set out to find a new narrative. Recording as we go, you’ll hear what works, as well as our mistakes. Is there a new way to make the world care? (March 12, 2015) The Guardian

Journalism will thrive and flourish just fine once it gets relevant and starts focusing on the greatest threat to humanity. There are other mediums to express our enthusiasm over non-critical issues. But for local journalism to survive, it needs to speak the name of our greatest issue: Climate Change.

Time passes.

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