Knight Center research director Bruno Takahashi recently co-authored a study in the journal Environmental Communication examining media coverage of climate change in news publications around the Great Lakes region. The study was co-authored with Kanni Huang, a recent Ph.D graduate from MSU; Fred Fico, emeritus professor in the School of Journalism at MSU,; and Dave Poulson, associate director of the Knight Center.
The study, titled Climate change reporting in Great Lakes region newspapers: a comparative study of the use of expert sources, examined the use of expert sources by online news outlets and found that few expert sources were used in the coverage of climate change, compared to non-expert sources such as politicians. In regards to these expert sources, the researchers found that very few skeptics were used in the stories. However, skeptic sources were more prominent in the stories; — in other words, they were featured earlier in stories than sources who believed in climate change. The study results also showed that reporters who cover climate change more frequently tended to use scientific sources more frequently and more prominently than reporters who authored fewer stories on the issue Finally, the study found that Canadian newspapers gave non-science sources significantly greater prominence than did US newspapers.
The study, funded by the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education, provides evidence about the limited use of skeptic sources in climate change coverage, but also highlights the fact that those sources are more prominent in the same news stories