Networks covered Trump in 2017 rather than disasters

December 12, 2017

Despite hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, heat waves, and massive wildfires, the biggest story of 2017 was U.S. President Donald Trump—not global warming—based on findings of a recent survey and analysis by the Toronto Star. In fact, even in the midst hurricane coverage, Trump’s toss-up of paper towels in Puerto Rico trounced other reports.

Jennifer Good, an associate professor of communication, popular culture and film at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, analyzed two weeks of hurricane coverage for the Toronto Star during the height of hurricane season on eight major TV networks—and found that about 60% of the stories included the word Trump, and only about 5% mentioned climate change.

Indeed, some  of Trump’s tweets generated more national coverage than these devastating disasters, according tp a separate report by Media Matters.

Specifically,  Media Matters found, , TV news outlets “gave far too little coverage to the welldocumented links between climate change and hurricanes.” The news outlet determined that the television networks, ABC and NBC, both completely failed  mention climate change during a storm that caused the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the continental United States. When Hurricane Irma hit soon after, breaking the record for hurricane intensity, ABCdidn’t do much better, Media Matters said.

The weekend that hurricane number-three, Maria, decimated Puerto Rico, the five major Sunday political talk shows devoted less than one minute in total to the storm and the humanitarian emergency efforts it triggered.

And Maria got only about a third as many mentions in major print and online media outlets as did Harvey and Irma, researchers at the MIT Media Lab found.

More mentions could have educated the American public. While nearly three-quarters of Americans know that most scientists are in agreement that climate change is happening, according to recent poll by Gallup, only 42% of Americans believe climate change will pose a serious threat to them during their lifetimes.

Research contact: jgood@brocku.ca

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