Even when events like Climate Change and Coronavirus hit Black populations the hardest, corporate news coverage and analysis excludes their voices
Evolondo Cooper, Senior Writer for Media Matters’ Climate and Energy Program, joins ecoWURD radio on WURD’s Reality Check w/ Charles Ellison for a discussion on corporate media exclusion of diverse and underserved population voices from climate change coverage.
Cooper describes Media Matters’ latest research entitled “How broadcast TV networks covered climate change in 2019.” As the report notes: “Media Matters examined 2019 news coverage of climate change on broadcast TV networks, counting and analyzing segments devoted to climate change and segments in which an employee of the network incorporated climate change or engaged with a guest who brought up climate change. We analyzed coverage on the nightly news programs and Sunday morning political shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC. We also analyzed Fox Broadcasting Co.’s syndicated Sunday morning political show, Fox News Sunday. Fox Broadcasting Co. (which is separate from the Fox News cable channel) does not have a nightly news program, so overall there was far less Fox airtime to analyze. In addition, weeknight episodes of PBS Newshour were included for a comparison point with the nightly news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC. PBS Newshour is not, however, included in the full data set.”
A not so surprising, but alarming finding in the report: “People of color made up only 10% of guestswho were interviewed or featured in the corporate networks’ climate coverage. Both scientists and women were also underrepresented in climate coverage, making just up 22% and 27% of guests, respectively.”
There was a sharp increase of diverse representation and perspective in climate coverage between 2018 and 2019. Yet, that voice remains almost invisible when compared to the presence of White experts, analysts or political commentators explaining or debating climate issues.
Interestingly enough, while Whites are nearly 9 times more likely to appear in mainstream media coverage on climate change, particularly as experts, Black people in the United States are more than 2.5 times more likely to die of heat-related causes since Black communities are disproportionately exposed to “urban heat island” effects. Black seniors are also 3 times more likely to die from smog exposure. People of color in East Coast cities like Philadelphia, which have been experiencing an increase in heavy rain-instigated flooding in recent years, are more than 2.5 times likely than Whites to live on land below 4 feet sea level – the level where intense flooding is most likely to increase substantially between now and 2050, according to Climate Central’s Surging Seas Risk Finder.
“What we’re seeing in our research is that corporate networks actively exclude communities and voices of color from their climate change coverage despite the fact that these communities are the most disproportionately harmed by climate change and environmental racism,” Cooper told ecoWURD.“As you can see with the coronavirus coverage, it’s just a preview of what’s to come when climate change intensifies. As usual, the voices of those who are impacted the most will be excluded. Poor people, people of color have always been ignored in these types of conversations.”
“There are definitely people available to discuss these issues. It’s a relatively easy pivot to make. I do know the material consequences of constantly excluding people who are on the frontlines of this.”