Guest blogged by Betsy Rosenberg, The Green Front
"Earth Week" has culminated in today's Earth Day, that brief period once a year when you might actually see an in-depth green story, series, or panel discussion about an environmental topic on TV, or hear a few on the radio. Newspapers and magazines can be counted on to do an eco-themed article in late April, but that’s about it.
Sadly, that’s about all the consistent coverage we’ve gotten from mainstream commercial media over the past 15 years. That’s how long I’ve been focused on this odd programming void. While that reality remains unchanged, ecologically and meteorologically speaking, there’s been a groundswell of dramatic events.
This year I caught NBC’s Today Show --- as part of their “Green Is Universal” week (if it were truly “universal” shouldn’t we see coverage more than once a year?) – doing the obligatory eco-friendly products display, featuring bamboo plates, doormats woven from used lobster twine and purses made from aluminum can tabs and candy wrappers. Nice and feel-good, but is this the most useful and deepest offering on a once-a-year occasion? We’ve come a long way since recycling was our biggest environmental concern, no?
Earth Day Lite, as I call it, is almost a Hallmark holiday – expressed on recycled content cards of course. It’s as predictable as the climate has become UNpredictable. With glaciers melting, sea levels rising and freak storms taking lives and livelihoods at a record rate, why have we not progressed in our coverage of the environment, our life support system, and the tenor of these topics, for the most part, remains unchanged?
Is it because Americans have short attention spans, low tolerance for disturbing news, are just too busy to bother, and programmers fear such content will be a turn-off? I suspect it’s a little of all the above.
The environmental threats facing our country and planet have deepened, grown exponentially in number and complexity --- which is what usually happens when problems are ignored --- and yet, media coverage has, as anemic as it was, actually decreased.
According to Media Matters of America, the major networks --- ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox --- significantly decreased their coverage of climate change between 2009 and 2011 while spending twice as much time discussing Donald Trump as they did our worsening climate. If they compared how often Kim Kardashian “made news” vs. climate change, she would also likely come out on top. Perhaps if we called it "Kim Kardashian’s Climate Change" more Americans would tune in?...