A new survey points to the humble TV weathercaster as the most public educator of climate change and science as a whole.
[social_buttons]In the largest survey of TV weathercasters to date, George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication found that two thirds of the respondents reported on science issues once per month or more frequently, as 94% of those surveyed worked at a station without a full time environmental or science reporter.
“Our surveys of the public have shown that many Americans are looking to their local TV weathercaster for information about global warming,” says Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication. “The findings of this latest survey show that TV weathercasters play—or can play—an important role as informal climate change educators.”
It makes sense that the weathercaster is looked to as the science reporter, as they are often the only trained scientist in the room. Many weathercasters are reporting on everything from astronomy to zoology, and lately have had to learn all about plate tectonics as the newsrooms look to them to explain the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.
“Only about 10 percent of TV stations have a dedicated specialist to cover these topics,” says University of Texas journalism professor Kristopher Wilson, a collaborator on the survey. “By default, and in many cases by choice, science stories become the domain of the only scientifically trained person in the newsroom—weathercasters.”
Thankfully, four out of five respondents indicated that they were more than comfortable taking on this responsibility. 62% said they would like to continue reporting on climate change at the current rate at which they do, while 28% said they would love to increase the amount of time they report on the subject.
Sadly, while two thirds of respondents hadn’t encountered obstacles to reporting on climate change a full third had.
87% of respondents – all of whom were currently employed TV weathercasters – have in some way discussed climate change as part of their role as station weather reporter. However it is not always on the TV that they are fulfilling this role. Almost half of the respondents who had reported on climate change had done so during a discussion with the shows anchor on set, and a full 87% had done so before community, civic and school groups.
The figures are fascinating and can be viewed in full by downloading the full report here (PDF).
Source: George Mason University
Image Source: jeffmcneill