Conservation Issues in the Media
Conservation Issues in the Media (assignment due in discussion section 10/15)
Find two articles about any issue in conservation biology in the media. Please bring copies of the articles as well as your analysis to discussion section on October 15th. You can use newspapers, magazines, internet reports, transcripts of radio reports (several are available on-line.)
1. Briefly summarize each article.
2. Analyze the coverage:
• Do you think the article provided sufficient information to understand the topic? Was it comprehensive?
• Did the article make environmental connections or discuss environmental consequences?
• Was the article biased (pro, con, or neutral?)
• What could the reporter have done better?
3. Briefly compare and contrast the articles (what do they do similarly, differently?)
4. Your overall impression and suggestions for how media coverage could be improved.
Some background reading follows:
Negative media reports about sharks may hinder efforts to protect these animals, researchers report. According to an analysis in Conservation Biology, US and Australian news articles are much more likely to highlight shark attacks than shark conservation issues.
Fishing, pollution, climate change, and people’s thirst for shark-fin soup are putting shark species at risk. But these mighty predators “suffer from a negative public image,” the study authors write. Since media coverage can affect people’s attitudes about conservation policy, the researchers wanted to find out how sharks were portrayed in news articles.
The team searched for shark-related articles in US and Australian newspapers published between 2000 and 2009, then chose 300 at random to analyze. Fifty-two percent of the stories were about shark attacks, while only 11 percent were about shark conservation, the researchers found.
Sharks were portrayed negatively in 59 percent of articles — for instance, because the animals had injured or killed humans or prompted beaches to close. Only about 19 percent focused on positive topics such as aquarium exhibits of sharks. The study suggests that “most news coverage in both Australia and the United States continues to emphasize risks from sharks rather than the reverse,” the team concludes. — Roberta Kwok | 1 November 2012
Source: Muter, B.A. et al. 2012. Australian and U.S. news media portrayal of sharks and their conservation. Conservation Biology doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01952.x.
Conserv Biol. 2012 Feb;26(1):171-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01750.x. Content analysis of newspaper coverage of the Florida panther.
Jacobson SK, Langin C, Carlton JS, Kaid LL.
Abstract: Populations of large carnivores are declining globally, and analysis of public discourse about
carnivores is useful for understanding public opinion and influences on management and policy. Portrayal of carnivores in the media affects public perceptions and support for their conservation. we conducted a content analysis of 513 articles about Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi) published from 2003 to 2006 in newspapers with local circulation in core panther habitat in southwest Florida and papers with statewide circulation to compare the differences in the amount of coverage and portrayals of panther risks to people and property on the basis of proximity of human communities to panthers. Local papers published significantly more news articles and significantly longer news articles primarily about panthers. Articles in local and statewide papers used both episodic frames, which focus on specific occurrences (e.g., a panther sighting or predation) and thematic frames, which focus on general trends (e.g., abundance of panthers over time). Local articles more often emphasized risks that panthers might harm people, pets, or livestock than statewide papers. Our results are consistent with theory that proximity to human–carnivore conflict influences perceptions and salience of risks posed by large carnivores. Most articles mentioned panthers as a secondary topic, which we believe was a result of the relevance an endangered carnivore has in discussions of public land management, development, and regulations in Florida. Claims made by sources quoted in each article had a neutral to positive depiction of panthers, and most quotations were from federal and state agency scientists. We suggest continued use by the media of agency sources provides the opportunity for clear, concordant messages about panther management. Content analysis provides a way to monitor media portrayal of carnivores for consistency with agency outreach goals.
While numerous factors determine the frequency, severity and cost of wildfires, scientific research indicates that human-induced climate change increases fire risks in parts of the Western U.S. by promoting warmer and drier conditions. Seven of nine fire experts contacted by Media Matters agreed journalists should explain the relationship between climate change and wildfires. But an analysis of recent coverage suggests mainstream media outlets are not up to the task — only 3 percent of news reports on wildfires in the West mentioned climate change.
American Scientist INTERVIEW
An interview with David Suzuki
In the introduction to The Sacred Balance (1998), you write:
[T]his has been the decade in which the media have dismissed environmental issues as matters of minor interest. . . . The media mantra, repeated over and over, is that the real bottom line must be the marketplace, free trade and the global economy. When the media are dominated by wealth and large corporate interests, this economic faith is like religious dogma and is seldom challenged.
Do you think that media coverage of the environment has changed over the last five years?
Yes, programs and articles are fewer and fewer and more superficial.
Folks in media have the attention span of a hummingbird and are bored with what they see as repetitive environmental stories. The problem, too, is that stories are reported as if there is no connection between them. So a drought in southern Alberta, forest fires in northern Alberta, pine beetle outbreaks in British Columbia (winters are too warm to kill them) and smog in Toronto are stories that are reported as if there is no connection.
Are there stories that are being covered effectively?
No. Compare coverage of the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (November 1992), in which more than half of all Nobel laureates suggested we may have as little as 10 years to avoid an ecological catastrophe, with coverage of O. J. Simpson, Princess Diana and Bill and Monica.
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