Examining the handbooks on environmental journalism

Examining the handbooks on environmental journalism

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Examining the handbooks on environmental journalism a qualitative document analysis and response to the literature
Rademakers, Lisa
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[Tampa, Fla.]
University of South Florida
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media guide
risk communication
science journalism
environmental communication
environmental journalist
Dissertations, Academic -- Mass Communications -- Masters -- USF ( lcsh )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
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ABSTRACT: This thesis addressed the question, "How should journalists cover the environment, according to the conversation between the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmental journalism?" Do the handbooks, written for practicing journalists, agree with the academic scholarship on environmental journalism? The conversation between the literature and handbooks is important to examine, as the handbooks are tools journalists may use when reporting on the environment. The handbooks could influence a journalist, who influences the public, who make decisions in a democracy. As well, examining the conversation between the literature and the handbooks reveals whether or not the academy and the practice agree on how to respond to the criticisms and challenges of environmental journalism. Do they offer the same tips for improvement? First, an extensive literature review on environmental journalism revealed the criticisms, challenges, and tips to improve.Second, a qualitative document analysis examined handbooks published for journalists covering the environment to capture definitions, meanings, and similarities and differences among them. Third, the results of the literature review and the results of the document analysis were compared to examine if the handbooks respond, emulate, or differ from the literature content. Findings include five qualitative document analyses of the handbooks, and a comparative essay of the handbooks to the scholarly literature. These findings were based on the researcher's interpretive analysis. The conversation between the literature and handbooks is a healthy one. As the literature presents challenges and criticisms, the handbooks suggest solutions. Most importantly, as the literature presents tips and techniques for improvement, the handbooks agree with the ways to improve.Overall, the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmental journalism are "on the same page." Both support understanding audience needs, obtaining a solid understanding of a topic before reporting, addressing environmental issues thoroughly, translating the science, providing the history of a topic, addressing risk, using diverse sources, maintaining long-term coverage, disseminating objective information, and more training for journalists.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2004.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Lisa Rademakers.

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Examining the handbooks on environmental journalism
h [electronic resource] :
a qualitative document analysis and response to the literature /
by Lisa Rademakers.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2004.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 108 pages.
ABSTRACT: This thesis addressed the question, "How should journalists cover the environment, according to the conversation between the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmental journalism?" Do the handbooks, written for practicing journalists, agree with the academic scholarship on environmental journalism? The conversation between the literature and handbooks is important to examine, as the handbooks are tools journalists may use when reporting on the environment. The handbooks could influence a journalist, who influences the public, who make decisions in a democracy. As well, examining the conversation between the literature and the handbooks reveals whether or not the academy and the practice agree on how to respond to the criticisms and challenges of environmental journalism. Do they offer the same tips for improvement? First, an extensive literature review on environmental journalism revealed the criticisms, challenges, and tips to improve.Second, a qualitative document analysis examined handbooks published for journalists covering the environment to capture definitions, meanings, and similarities and differences among them. Third, the results of the literature review and the results of the document analysis were compared to examine if the handbooks respond, emulate, or differ from the literature content. Findings include five qualitative document analyses of the handbooks, and a comparative essay of the handbooks to the scholarly literature. These findings were based on the researcher's interpretive analysis. The conversation between the literature and handbooks is a healthy one. As the literature presents challenges and criticisms, the handbooks suggest solutions. Most importantly, as the literature presents tips and techniques for improvement, the handbooks agree with the ways to improve.Overall, the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmental journalism are "on the same page." Both support understanding audience needs, obtaining a solid understanding of a topic before reporting, addressing environmental issues thoroughly, translating the science, providing the history of a topic, addressing risk, using diverse sources, maintaining long-term coverage, disseminating objective information, and more training for journalists.
Adviser: Rabert Dardenne.
media guide.
risk communication.
science journalism.
environmental communication.
environmental journalist.
Dissertations, Academic
x Mass Communications
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856
u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?e14.542


Examining the Handbooks on Environmental Journalism: A Qualitative Document Analysis and Response to the Literature by Lisa Rademakers A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts School of Mass Communications College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Robert Dardenne, Ph.D. Deni Elliott, Ph.D. Mark Jerome Walters, D.V.M Date of Approval: November 11, 2004 Keywords: environmental communication, enviro nmental journalist, science journalism, risk communication, media guide Copyright 2004, Lisa Rademakers


i Table of Contents ABSTRACT ii CHAPTER ONE 1 Introduction 1 Importance of Study 5 Methodology 10 Explication and Definition 14 CHAPTER TWO 23 Literature Review 23 Criticisms of Environmental Journalism 25 Challenges to Environmental Journalists 31 Tips for Environmental Journalists 39 CHAPTER THREE 52 Analysis of Handbooks 52 Covering the Environment 52 Ten Practical Tips for Environmental Reporting 55 Environmental Issues for the ‘90s 59 Covering Key Environmental Issues 62 The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook 66 CHAPTER FOUR 70 Conversation Between the Literature and Handbooks 70 Criticisms in Literature, Answers in Handbooks 73 Challenges in Literature, Solutions in Handbooks 75 Tips in Literature, Reinforced in Handbooks 77 CHAPTER FIVE 80 Conclusions and Discussion 80 Direction for Further Study 83 REFERENCES 85 APPENDICES 96 Appendix 1: List of Handbooks 97 Appendix 2: Handbooks Examined 103 Appendix 3: Protocol Sheet 104


ii Examining the Handbooks on Environmental Journalism: A Qualitative Document Analysis and Response to the Literature Lisa Rademakers ABSTRACT This thesis addressed the questi on, “How should jour nalists cover the environment, according to the conversation between the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmenta l journalism?” Do the handbooks, written for practicing journalists, agree with th e academic scholarship on environmental journalism? The conversation between th e literature and handbooks is important to examine, as the handbooks are tools journalists may use when reporting on the environment. The handbooks could influence a journalist, who infl uences the public, w ho make decisions in a democracy. As well, examining the conve rsation between the literature and the handbooks reveals whether or not the academy and the practice agree on how to respond to the criticisms and challenges of environmen tal journalism. Do they offer the same tips for improvement? First, an extensive literature review on environmental journalism revealed the criticisms, challenges, and tips to improve. Second, a qua litative document analysis examined handbooks published for journalist s covering the environment to capture definitions, meanings, and similarities and di fferences among them. Third, the results of


iii the literature review and the results of the document analysis were compared to examine if the handbooks respond, emulate, or differ from the literature content. Findings include five qualitative doc ument analyses of the handbooks, and a comparative essay of the handbooks to the scho larly literature. These findings were based on the researcher’s inte rpretive analysis. The conversation between the literature and handbooks is a healthy one. As the literature presents challenge s and criticisms, the handbooks suggest solutions. Most importantly, as the literature presents tips and techniques for improvement, the handbooks agree with the ways to improve. Ov erall, the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmental journalism are “on the same page.” Both support understanding audience needs, obtaining a solid understanding of a topic before reporting, addressing environmental issues th oroughly, translating th e science, providing the history of a topic, addr essing risk, using diverse sour ces, maintaining long-term coverage, disseminating objective informati on, and more training for journalists.


1 CHAPTER ONE Introduction Some historians traced the “environment” as an issue in conf lict back to 2500 BC when sewers ran through the streets in Ro me (Neuzil & Kovarik, 1996, p. 201). “The mass media of nearly every histori cal era contained reports of environmental conflict” wrote Neuzil and Kovarik in the book Mass Media and Envi ronmental Conflict (p. xxiii). In Reader of the Purple Sage: Essays on Western Writers and Environmental Literature, Ronald (2003) stated that even in 1842, “Thor eau was aware of the power to be gleaned from environmental journalism when he wrote ‘I read in Audobon with a thrill of delight, when the snow covers the ground, of the magnolia, and the Florida keys, and their warm sea-breezes’” (p. 170). Ultimat ely, Ronald found, “It was with Muir’s articulation of specific threat s to the California landscape – destruction of its redwoods, its Yosemite Valley, its mountain meadows, its wild rivers – that environmental journalism, as we know it today, was born” ( p. 171). John Muir wrote in the late 1800s and eventually formed the Sierra Club in 1892, serving as its first president. According to the literature, interest by the American media in the environment as a news story developed in the 1960s and ‘70s (Berger, 2002; Howenstine, 1987; Rubin & Sachs, 1973; Whelan, 1991). Rachel Carson ju mp-started a wave of environmental concern in 1962 when she published Silent Spring a book about the effects of pesticides on the land and people (Detjen, 1997). Sachsman (1996) noted that the New York Times


2 created an environment beat in 1969, Time and Saturday Review began regular sections on the environment in ‘69, National Geographic offered a 9,000-word article on environmental problems, and Life increased its coverage of the topic in 1969 (p. 244). Allen (2002) found, It is something of a truism for many rese archers interested in the circumstances surrounding the emergence of public discour ses of “the environment” that everything changed in 1969. That was the year startling images of planet Earth were relayed from the surface of the moon…t hese images evidently contributed to what may be appropriately described as an “epistemological break” at the level of media representation. Never again would claims about the relative effects of human societies on “the natura l world” fit quite so comf ortably into “traditional” categories…a new vocabulary would be requi red. What was needed were ways to interpret the environment as “news” fo r the benefit of audiences anxious to understand the long-term impli cations of these events for their own lives. (p. 103104) Some suggest the first Earth Day in 1970 was critical year that demanded increased attention from the press and th e public concerning the environment (Bowman, 1978; Brooks, 1990; Burke, 1995, Cantrill & Or avec, 1996; De Mott & Tom, 1990). As Shabecoff (1993) detailed in his book, A Fierce Green Fire Congress enacted a series of environmental laws in the 1970s that added fu el to the fire of the environment as an important political news story. Furtherm ore, Whelan (1991) found “Environmental coverage in the United States began its upward swing in 1970, after the environment became a news issue” (p. 9). In 1972, Rubin and Sachs examined coverage of


3 environmental issues as represented in ma jor consumer magazines across the nation and in San Francisco area newspapers, finding cove rage increased appreciably from 1965 to 1970. Since the ‘60s and ‘70s, coverage of the environment has continued, but fluctuated in frequency. Hans en (1991) said, “Public awar eness and concern about the environment developed during the 1960s and reached an initial peak around 1970, then fell back during the 1970s…studies indicate th at public concern about the environment has been on the increase since the mid1980s” (p. 444). Hertsgaard (1989) wrote in reference to the environment, Clearly the summer of 1 988 deserves much of the credit for this shift in journalism, and public, consciousness. It was a hellish season…It woke people up to the dangers of the greenhouse effect, to the probability that the earth is gradually overheating from all the smoke and soot Industrial Man had sowed into the atmosphere…Not until a top NASA scien tist, James Hansen, testified before Congress in June of last year that the greenhouse effect was no longer merely theory but fact did the medi a really take notice. The New York Times put the story above the fold on page 1 and gave the s ubject extensive play the rest of the summer. (p. 47) Hertsgaard continued to explain that 1988 was the year when forest fires ravaged Yellowstone, the Mississippi dried up, garbag e and medical wastes soiled East coast beaches and pollution weakened seals died in the North Sea (p. 48). To sum up, media and public concern for the environm ent continues to rise and fall.


4 Despite the different ideas of when it was that the environment became an important news story, it remains a topic that journalists encounter today. To meet the demands of the public, news organizations, a nd the natural environment, as well as to respond to the specific challenges that jour nalists experience, handbooks were written for new and veteran journalists alike who cover the environment occasionally or on a regular basis. These handbooks began to evolve in the 90s, as editors, edu cators and journalists became more concerned about the quality of environmental journalism. In 1990, the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ ) developed. Then, in 1991, the Environmental Journalism Center of the Radio-Television News Direct ors Association and Foundation was created. After that, the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder developed in 1992, and th en the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University in 1994. These are just a few of the organized efforts that took place after 1990 in connec tion with environmental journalism. This thesisÂ’ literature review revealed the challenges and criticisms of environmental journalism, as well as the tips and frameworks offered to improve. Then, a qualitative document analysis examined th e handbooks on environmental journalism to explore the information presented there to assist journalists writing about the environment. How do these handbooks respond to the literature? Wh at conversation is taking place between the two? What can we learn about environmental journalism from these handbooks? Ultimately, how should journalists cover the environment, according to the conversation between the scholarship and handbooks? This subject is of utmost importance considering the possibility that the handbooks could influence the media, who influence the public, who influence the govern ment and assist in the creation public


5 policy. Thus, the media’s presentation to the public about the envir onment has significant consequences, and the tools they use may pr esent repercussions. These handbooks serve as rich documents full of less ons on environmental journalism. The researcher found little commentary, and no studies or analysis of these handbooks written for journalists covering the e nvironment. In one of the only references found on these handbooks for journalists covering the environment, Willis and Okunade (1997) mentioned the 1989 version of Chemicals, The Press and the Public, a handbook for journalists on chemicals. They explaine d, “Press guides can be extremely helpful, especially given the lack of knowledge of general assignmen t reporters about specific health hazards they never covered. But a word of caution: some of the agencies publishing press guides may indeed have a ve sted interest in th e industry producing the health hazard or be biased in their anti-indus try stance” (p. 77). This thesis examined the features of these handbooks. Importance of Study The media are often the sole source the public receives information from concerning environmental issues and other sc ience-related topics. As LaFollette (1990) wrote, “Americans have primarily, if not excl usively, learned about sc ience and scientists in school or through the news and entertainment media” (p. 18). The task of educating the public about general scien tific and technological chal lenges is upon the mass media (Nelkin, 1995; Rubin and Sachs, 1973). As Goodfield (1981) found, “The public are those whose science teachers are the media” (p. 8).


6 The messages the media make can be as consequential as the issue itself. LaFollette (1990) said, “The j ournalists could visit the scie ntists’ lairs an d bring back accounts of what was going on, could even tran slate for the inhabitants. The social separation of the work of science, as well as the technicality of the language, magnified the importance of these media accounts” (p. 4). What is deemed important by the media is often what the pub lic deems important. Nelkin (1995) in Selling Science suggested that the media he lp create reality and set public opinion through the frame they provi de around science news. She also believes that science writers shape the public’s cons ciousness about science-related events. The media’s selection of news assists in setti ng the agenda for public policy and encourages the public to examine the social, political, and economic system. In addition to the public, government officials, experts, and other deci sion-makers also obtain information from the media. This information can have a lasti ng effect on society through the formation of laws, regulations, and other innovations. As Gregory (1991) found, the news media help develop the public’s perception of health or environmental risks by facilitating a two-way conversation between technical experts and the public, and fr om the public to scientists and government or industry decision makers ( p. 2). Media interpret sc ientific findings for the public, provide selective summaries of key information and overall assessments of scientific study (Gregory, 1991). The media can affect decisions, research and development in the fields of human health and environmental quality. As descri bed by Cohen (1963), the press “May not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, bu t it is stunningl y successful in telling its readers what to think about” (p. 13). McCombs and Shaw (1972) identified


7 this phenomenon as the agenda-setting func tion of mass media (p. 177). The agendasetting function found that the media could se t the publicÂ’s political agenda, and make certain issues more important and salient than others. By ignoring a topic, the media tells the public it is not important. Assuming that the media can set the public Â’s agenda, and influence the public who can influence city, county, state and fe deral government, one places power in the media. Nelkin (1995) found that visibility th rough the media is needed for financial and public policy support and that media reports in fluence such support. Thus, the press can lay the groundwork for establishing research directions and credib ility of requests for funding by scientists, environmental gr oups, and other organizations. Public understanding of the social implications, technical jus tifications, and political and economic foundations of science is in the intere st of an informed and involved citizenry (Nelkin, 1995). To provide funds, the public must understand what the funds will do. Goodfield (1981) listed many reasons why the pub lic needs to be info rmed about science: The publicÂ’s right to know a bout science and its implicati ons is paramount. First, it needs to know the hard fact s of scientific discovery a nd their relationship to past and changing ideas. Second, it needs to know what are the current scientific and trans-scientific issues, the areas of concern and debate, especially as they relate to the impact of scientific ideas on those social and political issues on which the public will be voting or on which citizen s should make their opinions felt. And third, the public needs to know about the actual nature of the scientific process, for this, as much as the content of scie nce, should be comprehended. The patterns,


8 the limits, the nature of discovery, the ba lance of certainty and uncertainty must be made explicit. (p. 88) Most importantly, as LaFollette (1990) sugge sted, what Americans believe about science determines what they expect of it, what they allow scientists to do. What the public wants from science eventually determines what they pay for. Environmental journalists have a challe nging task before them. What they translate for the public is a language full of po ssibilities. The presenta tion of information, ideas, and outcomes is a significant assignmen t. Environmental journalists can have an influence on society, and consequently make significant impacts on the future. As Gore (1991) stated, “The media have a responsibility to inform and to educate, to tell us not only what is happening today but also why it is happening and what it will mean to us – today and tomorrow” (p. 183). Communication of information to the public about environmental issues is critical to the public’s percep tion of the environment and what public policies will result. Specifically, communication about the environmen t becomes a social process with social consequences of how people live, and then, a democratic process of how people govern and are governed. As Ackland (1995) said, th e core of the theoretical concept of democratic societies depends on the media to make information available, and “good journalism ultimately contributes to good public po licy” (p. 250). “The goal is to enrich the public’s understanding of e nvironmental issues by elevati ng the quality of media” (p. 254). For the reasons explained above, environmental journalism is extremely important. As the public learns and is inform ed by the media, the quality of the media


9 accounts is critical. Thus, the process of the practitioner, and the tools the practitioner uses are also important. For, as Rogers ( 2002) referred to environmental journalism, the craft is firmly entrenched as a key beat in American journalism (p. 32). Hence, the handbooks and scholarship of environmental journalism ar e important and worthy of examination. As an illustration, Valenti ( 1998) found, “SEJ’s membership has climbed over 1000 members and expanded to internationa l affiliations. Trends in this specialty area of reporting may provide indicators for th e continuance of journa lism in the future and invite a renewed discussion of needed protocol to assure quality” (p. 226). The examination of the conversation between the literature and the handbooks for environmental journalists will serve this end of examining how to assure quality, or how journalists should report on th e environment, according to the conversation between the literature and the handbooks. As well, examinin g the conversation between the literature and the handbooks reveals whether or not th e academy and the pract ice agree on how to respond to the criticisms and challenges of environmental journalism, and if they are offering up the same tips for improvement. As Friedman (1991a) wrote, More and more people, including th ose in the profession, are calling on environmental journalists to change, to b ecome educators rather than just provides of information…Environment is becoming su ch a predominant issue that it will eventually permeate almost every beat. Every reporter, not just specialists, will occasionally be writing about the environm ent from some perspective. But while any good reporter can provide the facts, it wi ll be the environmental reporter’s job


10 to provide the context and background that readers and viewers need to understand the issues. (p. 27-28) To continue, on a global level, Salayakanond (199 4) said environmental journalism is not an easy beat to cover, but one of extreme importance. Finally, as Willis and Okunade (1997) wrote about risk communication, a form environmental journalism can adapt, “No other area of reporting so demands that the journalist get the facts straight as risk communication,” (p ix). They found, “Of th e many types of stories conveying risks, probably no other type affects so many potential victims as environmental hazards…environmental stories are all around us a nd affect us all in one way or another” (p. 75). Methodology This research was threefold. First, a litera ture review of environmental journalism revealed the criticisms of environmental journalism, the challenges of environmental journalism, and tips to improve envir onmental journalism. Second, a qualitative document analysis examined handbooks published for journalists covering the environment to capture definitions, meanings, and similarities and differences among them. Third, the results of the literature revi ew and the results of the document analysis were compared to examine if the han dbooks respond, emulate, or differ from the literature content. Through this process, this thesis contemplated, “How should journalists cover the environm ent, according to the conversat ion between the literature and the handbooks?” The findings include fi ve qualitative document analyses of


11 handbooks, and a comparative essay of the ha ndbooks to the scholarly literature. These findings were based on the resear cher’s interpretive analysis. The sampling method for the handbooks was progressive theoretical sampling. As Altheide (1996) wrote in the book Qualitative Media Analysis, “This refers to the selection of materials based on emerging unde rstanding of the topic under investigation. The idea is to select materials for conceptual or theoretically relevant reasons” (p. 33-34). This researcher’s aim was to examin e the most “typical” handbooks. Typical handbooks are those that any type of journalist could use, not just print or broadcast. Typical handbooks offer information on an arra y of environmental issues, rather than information on just one specific issue. Lastl y, typical handbooks are in print or available to print from the Internet. The researcher excluded from the group of handbooks examined a guide written by Lou Prato (1991) entitled Covering the Environmental Beat: An Overview for Radio and TV Journalists because it was written for a speci fic type of journalists. The researcher also excluded the Radio-Tele vision News Directors Association and Foundation’s (2003) Best Practices in Environmental Journalism because it is a video. For inclusion in the group of handbooks examin ed in this thesis, handbooks must have fit the criteria to be considered “typical.” Again, these typical handbooks were those that any type of journalist could us e, not just print journalists or just broadc ast journalists, handbooks that addressed an array of issues not just one environmental issue, and handbooks that were in print or available online to print from a computer, not videos or tapes.


12 To date, no list of handbooks for journa lists covering the environment exists, so one was compiled (See Appendix 1). In s earching on the Intern et to find handbooks, Google, World Cat Database, and Web Sites such as the Environmental Communication Network, the Society of Envi ronmental Journalists, the Radio and Television News Directors’ Foundation, and the International Ce nter for Journalists were used. The final list identifies 40 handbooks for jour nalists covering the environment. However, this list is not all-inclusive. An extensive search on the Internet may yield even more various types of handbooks for reporters covering the environment. Please note that that this study di d not analyze textbook resources for environmental communication or journalism, as would be used in a classroom. Nor is it examining brief, five to ten-page pamphlet s written for journalists reporting on a certain issue, published by a government agency or private company. This study primarily looked at those resources jour nalists on the job might use as a place to obtain background information quickly on an array of issues, as an alternative to visiting the Internet. Together, the five typical handbooks represent one genre of information to which journalists can turn when covering the environment. According to Altheide (1996), “Document an alysis refers to an integrated and conceptually informed method, procedure, and technique for locating, identifying, retrieving, and analyzing documen ts for their relevance, sign ificance and meaning” (p. 2). Altheide explained the approach to document analysis is guided by the theoretical and methodological position set fort h by George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer and Alfred Shutz. The assumptions are consistent with the symbolic interactionists’ perspective, which includes a focus on the meaning of activ ity, the situation in which is emerges, and


13 the importance of interaction for the communica tion process (p. 8-9). The result of this study was solid, descriptive mate rial developed through a theo retically informed manner, which is based on the literature of envir onmental journalism. The documents in this study, the handbooks, enabled the researcher to, as Altheide writes, 1.) Place symbolic meaning in context, 2.) track the process of its cr eation and influence on social definitions 3.) let our understanding emer ge through detailed investiga tion, and 4.) possibly use our understanding from the study of documents to change some social activities including the production of certain documents (p. 12). Described as “ethnographic content analysis ,” qualitative document analysis finds the meaning of the message reflected through information exchange, format, rhythm, and style including aural and visual (p. 16). As Altheide (1996) wrote, “ECA is not oriented to theory development but is more comfortable with clear descriptions and definitions compatible with the material. Central is the importance of constant comparison, contrasts, and theoretical sampling” (p. 17). After obtaining all five of the typica l handbooks on the list of handbooks (please see Appendix 2 for the handbooks examined), the researcher then developed a protocol sheet based on the suggestions from Altheide (1996) and also influenced by the methods presented by Strauss and Corbin (1990) Please see Appendix 3 for the protocol sheet. The handbooks were open-coded for content, writing style, tone, tips, meanings, miscellaneous features, and themes. As Stra uss and Corbin defined, open coding is “The process of breaking down, examining, comparing, conceptualizing, and categorizing data” (p. 61). Interesting detail s and quotes were noted with corresponding page numbers.


14 To compare the results from the handbooks with information in the literature review, an extensive review of the literatu re was performed. The lit erature review began with books and articles on environmental jour nalism. The references in these led to the discovery in the next book or article with more references Books, journal articles, Web sites and trade magazine material created the substance of the literature review. To compare the literatu re and the handbooks, the findings of the document analysis and the categories in the literature review were treated as two separate entities. Then the researcher used a poi nt of view as if the two were having a conversation. To compare, the researcher then asked, “What w ould they say to each other? Are they in agreement with each other, offering similar ideas on how to do environmental journalism? How exactly do the handbooks resp ond to the literature? Are the two on the same page?” Explication and Definitions Environmental journalism carries an a rray of possible meanings, and often embraces several at once. It can be consider ed an advocate’s beat, journalism with a purpose, or simply journalism about the enviro nment. Elements of the science and health reporter’s beat also play a part in th e environmental journalist’s job. Over time, the definition of environmental journalism has varied, and environmental issues have changed from trad itional, preservation ones to more modern, pollution-related ones, and the way the medi a have covered the environment has also changed. Environmental issues can range fr om those associated with the natural environment of the earth, or those associated with environmental threats to the health of


15 living things. Today, media cove rage of the environment may be classified as risk reporting or science journalism, or as part of a more general fiel d called environmental communication. In one of the first articles on environmental journalism, “Environmental reporting…sometimes the shrill voices get more credence than they deserve,” Hendin (1970) asked, “Is there any reporting that is n’t environmental repor ting?” (p. 15). He continued, “The environment is the world pe ople live in, and ecology is the relationship of living things – men, animals and plants – with their environment. When one discusses environmental reporting, I su spect he really means reporti ng on the deterioration of ecological relationships, the upsetting of the ever-so-delicate balance of nature”(p. 15). Since the beginning, environmental journalism has been a complex beat, encompassing more than just the environmen t. Often, politics, economics, and social issues play a part. In considering definitions of environmental journalism, one may consider the process or purpose of environmental journalis m in order to define it. For example, the Environmental Communication Resource Cent er, established in 1996 at the School of Communication at Northern Ar izona University, defined environmental communication as the communication of environmental messa ges to audiences by all means and through all channels. The definition continues, Environmental communication may be cons idered a process that involves both communicators and audiences and is achie ved through effective message delivery, interactive listening, and public disc ussion and debate. We envision such communication as the foundation for estab lishing relationships between people and the environment and as a means fo r enhancing environmental literacy and


16 sustainable environmental practices. (E nvironmental Communication Research Center, 1996) Here, environmental communica tion is a process with a pur pose. As well, Frome (1998) presented a similar definition, declaring envi ronmental journalism is “writing with a purpose, designed to present the public with s ound, accurate data as th e basis of informed participation in the process of decision ma king on environmental issues” (Frome, p. ix). He elaborated, Environmental journalism diffe rs from traditional journa lism. It plays by a set of rules based on a consciousness different fr om the dominant in modern American society. It is more than a way of repor ting and writing, but a way of living, of looking at the world, and at oneself. It star ts with a concept of social service, gives voice to struggle and demand, and co mes across with honesty, credibility, and purpose. It almost always involves somehow, somewhere, risk and sacrifice (Frome, p. 21). Another writer, Ronald (2003) used the terms “environmental literature,” “nature writing” and “environmental journalism” interchangeably. Ronald defined “environmental journalism” as A form of nonfiction prose that centers its attention, and ours, on the land around us. While it most often expresses a pr eservationist bias, or at least a conservationist slant, it also can be steadfastly neutral or even mildly prodevelopment…significantly, environmenta l journalism pleads for a reappraisal of values in a contemporary world, one that its practitioners, sadly enough, find


17 valueless. At any rate, it makes us th ink – about the landscape, about the land, about ourselves. (p. 169) Ronald’s definition seems to encompass onl y written environmental communication, but offers different purposes for the same term. In contrast, Ward (2002) contemplated e nvironmental journalism in terms of the advocacy-objectivity debate. This pairing of words strikes me as an oxymoron. Environmental journalism? The noun trumps the adjective in the hearts and minds of reporters who are most committed to their craft. Environmentalist writers, yes. Environmentalist journalists? Not by the strict definition of journalism. The effort to inform and to separate fact from fiction in the foreve relusive pursuit of “truth” or accuracy comes first. (p. 40) The debate over whether environmental journa lists are, or should be, advocates for the environment, is a persistent one in the fiel d. Some meanings of environmental journalism come with a mission while others are against any purpose other than to inform the public in an accurate and fair manner. When considering different purposes of environmental journalism, different definitions emerge. To understand environmental journali sts’ own definition of “environment reporting,” Rubin and Sachs (1973) asked survey responde nts to define the term. Reporters’ definitions of environment reporting ranged from “Reporting on physical resources” to “everything” (Rubin and Sachs, p. 42). Some restricted their definition to the negative aspects, such as threats, pollution or deterior ation. Over a third of the reporters restricted their definitions to covera ge of physical resources such as air, water


18 and land, while nearly half of the reporters c oncentrated on humans, or threats to people caused by pollution or threats by humans to their environment. Willis and Okunade (1997) wrote, “Environmental journalism a nd crusading journalism have often been synonymous. In the more recent past, however, some environmental journalists have wondered where the line should be drawn between crusading – almost advocacy – journalism, and objective, scientific reporting of the facts” (p. 84). Other scholars present more practical de finitions of environmental journalism. Valenti (1998), in the article “Ethi cal Decision Making in Environmental Communication,” seemed to use the term “environmental communication” simply to mean reporting and writing about envir onmental issues. She acknowledged though, how environmental journalism has often been criti cized of being more environmentalist than journalist (p. 219). Pleasant, Good, Shanahan, and Cohen (2002) defined environmental communication as “The link between comm unication practices and environmental affairs” (p. 197). This definition was bo rrowed from the Environmental Communication Commission of the National Co mmunication Association. As s hown here, the meaning of environmental journalism can become very complex, or quite simplified, depending on the source and context. It is important to note that while th e areas of science journalism, risk communication, and environmental journalism overlap, they are not one and the same. Sharing some important elements, not all scie nce journalism is environmental journalism and not all risk communication is envi ronmental journalism. However, much


19 environmental journalism can be classifi ed as risk communica tion and/or science journalism. In the scholarship of journa lism, science journalism is the oldest of the three and risk communication the newest. As Sachsman (1996) explained, “From the 1970s on, the list of specialized science communication fields became longer and more detailed: environmental communication, health co mmunication, risk co mmunication, press coverage of science and technology and mo re” (p. 248). In looking at the field of environmental risk communication, Sachsman said risk communication deserves to be considered its own area of study because it really is an environmental and health communication and perception field (p. 248) “By the mid-1980s, from any kind of academic perspective, it no longer made sens e to discuss environmental communication or environmental reporting in a vacuum…incr easingly, the terms in academic use were environmental risk communication and enviro nmental risk reporting, and risk generally referred to the health risk involved in the environmenta l issue” (p. 249). As they described “risk” as the new buzzword in science communication, Wilkins and Patterson (1991) found in the early 1980s th at issues of environmental quality began to dominate the agendas of certain fede ral agencies, and th e concept of risk communication emerged (p. xvii). “Under this new body of scholarship, risk communication was viewed as the one-way tr ansmission of information about various risks in the environment from the expert, sc ientific community to the lay public” (Wilkins and Patterson, p. xvii). According to Krimsky and Plough (1988), since 1986, “Scores of titles with the term ‘risk communication’ have appeared” (p. 2). Willis and Okunade (1997) defined risk


20 communication as occurring whenever the news or entertainment me dia depict dangers – potential, imminent, or existing – that could place at least so me readers or viewers in a health risk (p. 1). They con tinued that risk communication ca sts a very wide net including health, science, crime, and the environment (p. 5). Aut hors Singer and Endreny (1993) defined risk as “the probability of property damage, injury, illness, or death associated with hazard. In the definition of a hazard, they followed Hohenemser and his colleagues (1983), who define hazards as ‘threats to human s and what they value.’ Toxic waste, lowlevel radiation, salt, tampons, au tomobiles, hurricanes, malaria – all these are ‘hazards’ as we use the term” (p. 6-7). Such a definition of risk does apply to environmental issues, and journalism about the environment. This thesis considered aspects of risk communication studies because of its direct relation to environmental journalism. Many environmental stories encompass important facets of risk, and in communicating about the environment, there will likely be communication about risk as well. To show this, in their study on the literature of environmental communication, Pleasant et al. (2 002) found the strongest concentration of environmental communication articles per jo urnal in the aspect of environmental communication concerning risk (p.201). Add itionally, from 1985 to 1990, as Sachsman (1999) described, the Environmental Risk Reporting Project took place to teach journalists about risk assessment (p. 115). “T he project’s underlying assumption was that environmental and health journalism would be improved if repor ters thought – like scientists – in terms of the degree of risk a nd if environmental news stories concentrated on the issue of risk” (p. 115) Sachsman said those involve d in the project taught and


21 believed that risk was the most meaningf ul way to evaluate and report about the environment (p. 119). In defining science communication, another field closely related to environmental journalism, Burns, OÂ’Connor and Stocklmayer (2003) used a purpose-oriented definition. The use of appropriate skills, media, ac tivities, and dialogue to produce one or more of the following personal respon ses to science (the vowel analogy) A wareness, including familiarity with new aspects of science, E njoyment or other affective responses, e.g. appreciating science as entertainment or art, I nterest, as evidenced by voluntary involvement with science or its communication, O pinions, the forming, reforming, or conf irming of science-related attitudes, U nderstanding of science, its content, processes, and social factorsÂ…This definition clarifies the purpose and char acteristics of scie nce communication and provides a basis for evaluati ng its effectiveness (p. 191). Such a definition considered more types of communication than that which only takes place through the media. For this thesis, science journalism m eans media coverage about science for a general audience. As well, risk communicati on, or more specifically, risk journalism, a term not found in the literature, but for pur poses here, means media coverage about risk for a general audience. In the most broad context, environmen tal communication, or the communication of environmental informa tion, includes public relati ons communication about the environment, advocate communication to cha nge behavior toward the environment, communication for educational purposes on the e nvironment, and more forms that are not


22 exhaustively detailed here. In menti oning these varieties of environmental communication, the researcher c ontrasts them with environm ental journalism, a specific type of environmental communication, and th e one of most importance to this study. For the purposes at hand, “environm ental journalism” means mass media coverage by a journalist about the environment for a gene ral audience. Herein, “mass media” or simply, “media” refers to newspape rs, television stations, magazines, and radio stations. This definition of media does not in clude specialized, niche mass media such as scientific environmental jour nals or specialized trade magazines. The purpose of environmental journalism is to inform the pub lic so they make the best decisions in a democracy. A final term that should be understood before moving forward is “handbook.” In this study, handbook refers to a guide, manual, or reference book providing information or instruction. Specifically, the handbooks examined here had to be in print, or available online to print from a computer, and targeted to any type of journali st, not just broadcast or print. Lastly, the handbook ha d to address several environmen tal topics to be included as a handbook under examination, not just one specific subject.


23 CHAPTER TWO Literature Review In the study “The Literature of Envi ronmental Communication,” Pleasant, Good, Shanahan, and Cohen (2002) collected cita tions of all papers matching specified keywords covering environmental communicatio n topics in the social science journal literature from relevant indices from 1945 to 2001. They found, “Environmental communication research really began to take off in 1985 when the number of articles doubled from the previous year” (p. 201). Th ey concluded that, w ith the substantial amount of academic literature on environmen tal communication scattered in different journals of communication, sc ience, and risk, there shoul d be a specialized journal offering a discussion forum on only environm ental communication (Pleasant et al.). Research articles about co mmunication and the environment can be found as early as 1973 in The Journal of Environmental Education Academic scholarship has swelled in environmental communication studies in the form of books journal articles, and in discussions in communication trade magazines over the last thirty years. The amount of literature concerning environmen tal journalism is vast, in the form of quantitative and qualitative research. Often, the literature on environmental jour nalism leads one to the literature of science and risk communication, and the l iterature on science a nd risk communication leads one to the literature on environmental communicati on. Consequently, this study


24 incorporates information from the literatur e on risk communication studies and science communication studies. But, the literature on science or risk communication isn’t exhausted here because that would confuse the purpose, which is to concentrate on the literature of environmental journalism. However, much of the discourse on science journalism applies to environmental journa lism, as risk communication scholarship applies to environmental journalism. For the purposes of this study, the research er identified some ma in categories of interest running through the literature on environmental journalism. These include: criticisms of environmental j ournalism, challenges to enviro nmental journalists, and tips for environmental journalists. The researcher acknowledges that topi cs like ethics and quality in the body of literatur e of environmental journalism attracted the researcher to them. John Pauly (1991) in “A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Qualitative Research in Mass Communication,” said “Qualitative res earchers often choose to study mass communication in one of three ways: as a proc ess, as a product, or as a commentary” (p. 3-4). Through this researcher’s review of the literature, environmental journalism is viewed as a product through the cr iticisms of environmental journalism, and as a practice through the challenges to environmental j ournalists and tips for environmental journalists. The handbooks on environmental jo urnalism will later be viewed as a commentary in response to the literature. The story written in the literature desc ribes the beginnings, maturity, and life lessons of environmental journalism. Challe nges, critiques, and tips stand out, both for the process and the product.


25 Criticisms of Environmental Journalism Traditional news values include timelin ess, proximity, prominence, consequence, conflict, and human interest. These often determine coverage of an issue more than anything else, and many of the criticisms of environmental journalism directly and indirectly criticize these traditional news valu es and the manifestation of them. Because environmental issues are different from many other news topics, environmental journalists may do more harm than help when adhering to news values like timeliness, conflict, and human interest. In trying to understand how the mass me dia might better provide information on complex and uncertain issues, Rogers (1999) conducted research with focus groups on the subjects of AIDS and global warming. Some concerns the groups expressed included lack of information, lack of context, confus ion about the story stru cture, that reports included an array of different points, that visuals were dist racting or contradicted the content, and that story framing was confus ing (p. 188-195). Many of these complaints stem from the incorporation of traditional news values. Sachsman (1996) thought that what might seem to be bias on environmental journalists’ part could simply be the nor mal tendencies of journalism (p. 250). He described, Through more than twenty years of envi ronmental coverage, journalists have stuck to their own news values…rather than moving toward or emphasizing ‘importance,’ the one value they share w ith science. By maintaining their own standards, they have kept control of their own agenda, and it has been this media agenda of prominence, proximity, timliness, and human interest as well as


26 consequence that has influenced what the public has thought about, if not what people thought (p. 254). In an additional article, Sachsman (1999) st ated, “Reporters generally apply the same standards to science reporti ng that they do to Hollywood or sports reporting” (p. 115). Arguing that journalists are more loyal to their traditional news values, Sachsman (1999) continued, ”By hanging on to their own ways of looking at things, the media steered clear of the influence of those involved in e nvironmental affairs. They set their own environmental agendas instead of depending on the value judgments of their sources. The many independent voices of the mass media were maintained” (p. 120). Because environmental journalism, like science jour nalism, is so complex and can be highly technical, scholarship criticizes coverage that utilizes the same traditional news values found in other news (Greenberg, Sachsman, Sandman, & Salomone, 1989). In a study of risk news stories on hazards, Singer and Endreny (1993) found errors such as statements that were substa ntially different from the research report, different emphasis in a story fr om the research report, and th at important information was omitted from the original report to the stor y (p. 157-158). The authors believe, “If readers and viewers are not made aware of these contingencies, if mass media accounts do not reflect limitations in the data or the research method used, and if conflicting findings are presented without interpretation or evalua tion, then flaws exist in the communication process, whether we call these flaws inaccuraci es or give them some other name (p. 157). The authors concluded that re porting about hazards is ordi narily reporting about events rather than issues, and about immediat e consequences rather than long-term considerations. Alternatives, ri sks, benefits, moral or ethi cal issues, and even economic


27 issues were for the most pa rt ignored. But, they conti nued, “Nothing in the rules of journalism says that the reporter must, in ad dition to describing an industrial accident, also inform readers about th e likelihood of such an even t occurring again, or about the risks posed by the industry in general, or abou t alternatives and thei r benefits and costs” (p. 163). As it can be seen, traditional news values depreciate journalism on the environment. To continue, through his study of radio broadcasts, Da rley (2000) said the need for conflict and news as entertainment will hinder coverage of the issues of the environment (p. 164) and claims the environm ent demands keener and deeper reporting and discussion techniques. The question, he sa id, should not be “Will this entertain?’ but rather “Is this what we need to know?” (p. 166). As Allan (2002) found, Many of the deficiencies indicative of Western news coverage of post-Chernobyl [1986] developments in nuclear energy are attributable to the journalistic search for the novel and the unusual, for dramatically compelling ‘news pegs’ confinable within episodic narratives…an emphasis on specific events, such as accidental ‘leaks’ or ‘spills’, to the detriment of a thorough accounting of the embodied risks for citizens over a period of time longer th an yesterday’s headline. (p. 109-110) Allan concluded that reporting which reduces environmental ri sks to isolated events or incidents, to “personalities” made to sta nd for larger economic, political, and cultural factors, fails to make the necessary connec tions at a social stru ctural level (p. 119). Environmental journalism is of ten belittled because of tende ncies to be event-oriented, and failure to explain larg er issues (Allen, Adam, and Carter, 2000; Anderson, 1997). Lundberg (1984) found coverage of tropical rain deforestation in magazines


28 comprehensively covered causes, effects, and background information, but addressed solutions and documentation leas t (p. 382). Another complaint has been that journalists tend to be crisis-oriented on the e nvironmental beat (Hertsgaard, 1989). To turn to the literature on journalists who cover science, Stocking (1999) found several groups of concensus: Journalists make science more certain than it is by loss of caveats, single-source stories, lack of context, being more interested in the product over the process, and assuming science will bring a triumphant quest (p. 24-27). On the other hand, some journalists make science appear uncertain and baffling (Krimsky and Plough, 1988; Stocking, 1999). Stocking al so found journalists don’t explain flip-flops in science’s findings of one thing one day, and something completely contradictory the next. Also, journalists sometimes give equal weight to majority and fringe scientists, as well as scientists and nonscientists (Stocking, p. 28-29) To account for these different patterns, Stocking discussed journalists’ ignorance, education and experience as factors, journalists’ concerns for scientists’ values as well as allegiance to their own profession’s values and standards, media routines and organizational demands (p. 32-33). This researcher has identified specific criticisms in the literature that appear to be environmental journalists’ “easy-way-out” whil e adhering to traditional news values. As Goodfield (1981) found, “Many scientists be lieve that too many people in the media always will present the public with simplisti c stories rather than struggle to explain complicated truths” (p. 7). Environmen tal journalism often demands thorough background investigation, transl ation of technical informa tion, and consideration of larger issues like future conseque nces. As Goodfield (1981) states,


29 The temptation is, of course, to take the shortcuts, and this is often done. There are two kinds of shortcuts: one is simp ly not to go deep enough or spend time enough to find the correct story; the other is to create interest in an irresponsible way, by bending the facts, exaggerating the impact, distorting the consequences, indulging in a spot of free association, even just gett ing things plain wrong and not caring (p. 18). Journalists often want just a general understa nding because of the c onstraints they work under, and don’t interpret underlying issues (Nelkin, 1995). For example, Sachsman (1976) found that journalists often rely heavil y on press releases, resulting in coverage that is actually done by a pub lic relations practit ioner. Taking the easy way out of a complex subject does not have positive cons equences for anyone involved -the media, the environment, or the public. Friedman (1999) found that “covering longterm issues in which the science is uncertain and keeps changing is not the media’s forte…the media has serious problems covering long-term aspects of this issue… rarely did they tell people how much knowledge scientists lacked about some of the elements in the risk estimate equation” (p. 132). Likewise, in criticizi ng journalism for its simplicity, Shabecoff (1993) found, “The mass media have probably been more effec tive than the slow-off-the-mark schools in educating the American public about the nation’s ecological problems – although not necessarily about potenti al solutions” (p. 137). In addition to lacking long term covera ge, Rubin and Sachs (1973) found that the environmental beat is prone to “Afghanistanis m” which “permits perceptive coverage of problems in other parts of the country but produces myopia in dealing with similar


30 problems at home” and “is characterized by th e presentation of bold editorial solutions for the problems of countries halfway around th e globe but only silence for problems at home” (p. 252). Environmental journalism is also critici zed for always obtaining information from and using traditional, dominant sources li ke government officials (Lacy and Coulson, 2000; Rubin and Sachs, 1973; Sachsman, 1976; Smith, 1993). In their comparative source study on source use on the environm ental beat, Lacy and Coulson wrote, “Traditional bureaucratic types of sources cr iticized by some schol ars continue their dominance in shaping the news about an im portant public issue,” (p. 22). Sources with expertise, but not affiliated with government, such as sources at universities were used only occasionally (p. 23). Corner and Richardson (1993) summarized mediations of the environment in the news as …Often characterized by a strong elemen t of threat and risk, ranging from ill health to planetary death…Following from this, many images and phrases used in coverage acquire a highly charged symbo lic resonance…and given the scientific nature both of many perceived threats to the environment…and the detection and assessment of such threats… there is often a co re of esoteric, ‘expert’ knowledge at issue in many environmental stories” (p. 223). Finally, Simon (1980) in Science found that “Bad news about population growth, natural resources, and th e environment that is based on flimsy evidence or no evidence at all is published widely in the face of cont radictory evidence” (p. 1432). Simon found the reasons to be: 1.) There is a funding incentive. 2.) Bad news sells. 3.) There are a host of


31 psychological explanations. 4.) Such warnings can mobilize institut ions and individuals to make things better. He concludes by asking, “Who will tell us the good-and-true news? How will it be published for people to learn?” (p. 1437). To sum up, criticisms of environmenta l journalism include lack of context, confusing story framing, coverage with insu fficient information, an emphasis presented that differs from reality, reports of events rather than issues, a focus on conflict or entertainment, n inclusion of solutions to e nvironmental problems, us e of traditional news sources, simplistic stories that don’t make la rger connections, covera ge that is crisisoriented, the making of science as more cert ain than it really is a reliance on press releases, a lack of l ong-term coverage, “Afghanistanism,” or coverage that lacks locality, and stories that sell rather than inform. Challenges to Environmental Journalists Many of the same challenges that apply to journalists in general are the ones that challenge environmental journalists. Howeve r, some challenges are very specific to environmental journalists, but also apply to science journalists and risk journalists. As early as 1973, Sellers and Jones list ed many of the difficulties the mass media face in covering the environment. News trad itions including event reporting, objective reporting, and writing about response rather than initiative challenged journalists. Advertiser pressure, management policy, una vailability of inform ation, provincialism, reluctance to trust conservationist sources, and space, time and finances all created special challenges for environm ental journalists (p. 51-56).


32 As Friedman (1991b) said, the amount of attention in the media given to the environment has significantly increased, but, The environmental beat of the 1990s is not very different from what it was in the 1970s. While quantity may be up and envir onmental topics different and more varied, the quality of environmental coverage presents many of the same problems it did 20 years ago. There are ot her similarities as well. No one knows now – just as no one knew then—how ma ny environmental reporters there are working in the mass media or just wh at topics fall under the rubric of environmental reporting. Where does one draw the line between science and environmental reporting, or between political and e nvironmental reporting? (p. 19) Environmental journalists must wear many different hats. “The environmental news writer is as much a business news writer as a science writer or poli tical reporter since the decisions of private business materially affect the quality of the environment” (Rubin and Sachs, 1973, p. 31). However, “The average bu siness page is not a promising place to seek quality coverage of public utilities, the nuclear power dilemma, land development, water resource, or other environmental proble ms. The level of reporting is often low; the section is oriented toward investment ne ws, puff; the pressure s are great” (Rubin and Sachs, p. 33). The environmental journalist’s beat is extremely challenging because it encompasses the topics of many other beats like law, business, and politics (Bowman, 1978; Detjen, 1997; Friedman, 1991b; Sach sman, 1999; Schoenfeld, (1980); Wilson, 2000).


33 To understand and write about the environm ent is a tall order. Friedman (1999) explained, “Tracking a long-te rm controversy such as di oxin is difficult enough for scientists who spend years study ing the issue. For journalists, keeping abreast of all the scientific data and arguments is an almost impossible task because they must keep track of a wide range of other scie ntific and environmental news, not just one issue” (p. 114). The sheer science on the environmental journali st’s beat presents another major challenge to journalists (Anderson, 1997; Archib ald, 1999; Detjen, 1997; Goodfield, 1981). Overall, there is wide agreement that environm ental journalist’s beat is innately complex (Anderson, 1997; Bowman, 1978; Fisher, 1974 ; Friedman, 1979; Gee, 2000; Harrabin, 2000; Miller, 2003; Willis and Okunade, 1997; Wilson, 2000). As Sandman, Sachsman, Greenberg, and Gochfield (1987) stated, “The most fundament al problem characteristic of environmental news reporting is that environmental risk information is neither easy to obtain nor easy to understand” (p. xii). Today, coverage of the environment is not only reporting current practices, issues, and trends, but what kind of repercussions they will have, in the social and political realm (Goodfield, 1981; Hamilton, 1991; Nelkin, 1995). The difficulties in reporting on the environment involve uncertainties associated with research and innovation and with their long-term, real-life impacts (Gee, 2000). K nowing what new developments mean to society and how they are going to affect the li ves of individuals is important to the public at large. Singer and Endreny (1993) asked, The fact is that scientists often disagree, from whether or not the ‘big bang’ theory can explain the origin of the universe, to whether or not elect romagnetic fields are


34 capable of causing cancer, to how much of a threat radon in homes really is. Under these circumstances, what doe s accurate reporting demand? (p. 165) Scientists and other experts often disagree a bout the facts, making it hard for journalists to judge the testimony (Corner and Richardson, 1993). Furthermore, Smith (2000) discusse d challenges to media covering the environment. He asked, How to tell storie s about highly complex science and policy debates which unfold slowly in meetings and journals?” and “How to ensure that coverage of the deep underly ing issues of environment and sustainability don’t get bounced out of the way by late-breaking news items?” as well as “How to represent issues that are important and new, but not ‘news’?” (p. 4). According to Goodfield (1981), one of the common constraints of the media covering science is that science journa lism cannot work the same way as basic journalism, in the style of the inverted pyr amid. In telling a story about science, the reporter must start by building a series of br idges between the read er’s understanding and the essential background information. One bu ilds bridge after bridge until finally an understandable conclusion is reached, but if a ny one of these bridges is cut out, the whole story collapses. Translation is yet another challenge to e nvironmental journalists, from risk statistics to scientific processe s (Anderson, 1997; Fisher, 1974; Krimsky and Plough, 1988). This is compounded with limited tim e and space for a journalists to explain (Archibald, 1999; Bowman, 1978; Harrabin, 2000; Miller, 2003; Rubin and Sachs, 1973; Sandman et al., 1987). To show this, Sachsm an, Simon, and Valenti (2002) reported that New England journalists interviewed said th e biggest barrier to reporting environmental


35 stories was “everyday, practical journalistic process concerns su ch as time constraints and the size of the news hole” (p. 430). A challenge journalists face personally is that they don’t have an education or background in environmental issues or sc ience (Anderson, 1997; Detjen, Fico, Li and Kim, 2000; Friedman, 1991a) or, as Nelkin (1995) said, “Journalists might avoid substantive questions because th ey are unable to evaluate what they are told.” Friedman (1991a) noted that some journalists couldn’t interpret environmental pollution data and have to ask sources (p. 40). In addition, ma ny environmental journalis ts, like journalists generally, work in newsrooms in which highe r-level constraints influence their work (Detjen et al, 2000). Most media do not have a full-time envi ronmental reporter on staff. As Farrow (2000) said, “in the US, environment is not a prime beat. Environm ental journalists do not stay around very long” (p. 191). As we ll, resources to pay for environmental journalists and their work is limited (A merican Opinion Research, 1993; Archibald, 1999; Detjen et al., 2000; Harrabin, 2000; Nelk in, 1995). According to Sachsman, Simon, and Valenti (2002), out of the 55 reporters interviewed who cover the environment at New England newspapers and television sta tions, only two spent 100 percent of their time on environmental stories (p. 422). Mo re than 40 percent of the journalists interviewed reported their title as reporter general reporter, or staff writer (p. 423). Editors are another major challenge for e nvironmental journalists. They may not have interest in environmental journalism, be educated about it, or believe it is important (American Opinion Research, 1993; Izakon, 200 1; Miller, 2003; Sandman et al., 1987). Editors choose to describe science so that e ach description makes sense to their readers,


36 fits with that audience’s general beliefs about science, and therefore enhance the publication’s marketability (LaF ollette, 1990). The need to cr eate the interest to sell newspapers to readers is another challenge for journalists covering science and the environment (Gee, 2000; Goodfield, 1981). Journa lists may feel the need to find the new all the time, which is another challenge si nce environmental issues are chronic, long lasting issues (Anderson, 1997). Editors usuall y evaluate news stories based on basis of color and excitement (Nelki n, 1995). All these re asons exemplify the challenge that environmental journalists face covering their beat. In writing about the organizational requi rements of the news media, Willis and Okunade (1997) listed advertising, consumers, and marketable conten t (p. 33). Within the profession of journalism, ther e is the problem concerning, “P ublishers are dependent on advertising and consumerism, and covering the environment tends to attack that,” states Phil Shabecoff in an article by Selcraig (1995). Additionally, as Anderson (1991) found, “environmental news stories rarely make h eadline news and much depends on the extent to which other social issues command greater political attention” (p. 473). Environmental reporters are competing for space against what ever this week’s diplomatic crisis is (Detjen, 1997; Hertsgaard, 1989). To mention pros and cons, or those for and against, an obvious division is found in the literature between those who believe in environmental journalism as an advocate beat and those who don’t. If a journalist does choose to cover the environment with a preservation bias, one might wonder, “What’ s wrong with a cause like saving the earth? Doesn’t everyone want clean air and water to breathe and drink?” One answer is economics. How much is it worth to save one acre of land or one pe rson’s life if it costs


37 taxpayers or industry a substa ntial amount? Another answer is science. Both sides have science supporting their claims and the debate becomes a controversial one. Shabecoff (1993) found the issue concerns power. I have occasionally wondered why business leaders so bitterly opposed efforts to protect the environment…The most likel y explanation is that many of our captains of industry simply do not want to be told how to run their companies – not by the government and certainly not by a mob of tree-loving hippie environmentalists. The underlying issue is power – power over decisions that industry possesses and does not want to yield or share (p. 226). This tog-of-war becomes especially touchy fo r journalists. According to Izakon (2001), journalists face a hostile environment when covering the environment because people assume a journalist is a tree hugg er, leftist political activist. Smith (1991) quoted Robert L. Rapetto, then senior economist at the World Resources Institute, “most conflicts over whether and how to address environmental hazards boils down to one argument: How much will it cost” (p. 161). Smith wrote, The solutions to environmental problem s will increasingly revolve around tradeoffs between social and political goals and economic impacts….To adequately probe the economics of environmental so lutions, or the issues that today’s environmental dangers raise for economic development – and inform the public – puts new demands on reporters to examine the assumptions and information paradigm underlying current economic anal ysis and economics itself. For that they will need to look beyond conventi onal thinking to alte rnative visions,


38 analysis and new ideas about the links between economics and the environment, technology, economic development and regulatory mechanisms. (p. 165) Social-ideological issues like these are a consta nt challenge for environmental journalists. For example, in “The End of Science Wr iting,” Franklin (1997) wrote about his experience as a writer covering scie nce. He discussed how science Almost always came out on the glorious end of the story…the public bought this…Scientists thought of themselves as a political. That they had that luxury was a measure of the privilege they enjoye d. In our political system nothing is apolitical. As soon as science started being financed by public dollars it was political…What all th is means is that science’s political childhood is over, and what is true of science is doubly true for the science writer…When it came to taking important stands, and ar ticulating basic principles, the scientific culture had pretty much taken a walk…It is time for scie ntists to come to terms with the fact that they’re eating at the po litical trough and that they’d damned well better make their political case, and make it in a way that real peopl e can understand it. Challenges to environmental journalists are ma ny, including news traditions, advertiser pressure, management policy, editors, space, time, finances, complexity of the environment beat, the relationships the envir onment has with other beats, translation of scientific or technical info rmation, reporting repercussion s, the uncertainty of the environment, disagreement between sources on the facts, the need to find the new, competition with other news, education of journalists who report about the environment, and the advocate versus objective role on the en vironmental beat. Luckily, as well as the


39 criticisms and challenges found in the scholar ship, there are many tips and suggestions to assist in improving environmental journalism. Tips for Environmental Journalists Researchers offer a plethora of suggesti ons to improve environmental journalism. They address understanding the needs of the specific audien ce, addressing environmental issues thoroughly, finding the be st sources, covering the envi ronment persistently, using an ethical framework, and developing or increasing training. There are numerous specifics within the literature, but for th e purposes here, the most important, general suggestions are noted. For example, Kim (1977) suggests science journalists need to be taught ways to explain science including definition, examples, and analogy (p 81). In this study, that is considered a tip to addr ess environmental issues thoroughly. Archibald (1999) found the environmental beat should be c overed without the influence of ideology, more environmental re porting should be less cr isis-oriented, there should be an environmental ed itor, and journalists should find a way to personify issues. Salayakanond (1994) said the pres s has three roles to play in the environmental debate: to educate, to expose, and to encourage debate (p. 40). A multitude of specific tips is found in the literature to improve environmental journalism. Some suggest that science and environm ental journalists better understand the needs of their audiences (Krimsky an d Plough, 1988; Rogers, 1999; Weigold, 2001). Rogers (1999) found that writers need to pr ovide complete information and avoid making assumptions about the background and level of knowledge of the audience (p. 197). She also found that writers “cannot assume that r eaders encountered those earlier stories or, if


40 they did, that they attended to them or can recall them” (p. 197). She asked, “Might audiences have better unders tood the stories if the reporters had begun with an explicit acknowledgment of beliefs audiences might already have had and then explained how this new information related to that?” (p. 197). Frome (1998) encouraged environmental journalists to maintain a historical perspective (p. 95). “Awareness a nd appreciation of th e breadth of history help to ‘write whole’ he finds. Environmental journalists n eed to explore history and expose it fully to public light (p. 96). Concerning interviews, as a pointer, Fr ome suggested preparation as key. “The more you know in advance, the more you’ll learn. That’s what environmental journalism is all about” (p. xiii). In Bowman’s (1978) survey of editors, one responded, “The task of the news media is to make complex environmental issu es comprehensible to a mass audience. We should place issues in contex t and avoid coverage of mere symptoms. The story should be told in terms of people and how it fits their daily envi ronment” (p. 10). Translation of complex scie ntific information, and t horough explanations of the background on an issue also might help impr ove environmental journalism (Flannery, 2000; Friedman, 1999; Rowan, 199 0). Rowan said journalists have an obligation to explain technical ideas when their comprehensi on is necessary to the public’s welfare (p. 25). However, Sandman et al. (1987) said repo rters need to “make sure they understand the technical material they pl an to explain” (p. 101). As Rogers (1999) suggested, stories might do well to answer the “so what?” question (p. 198). “Cont ext is especially important in stories of uncertain science that involve health or environmental risks such


41 as AIDS and global warming” (p. 198). Schoenf eld’s (1980) interviews with journalists suggested finding the human element in environmental stories. Goodfield (1981) said it is th e duty of the press to see that science journalists are well-versed in scientific issues, educable a bout the facts, and willing and able to spend the necessary time to do the job properly. “W ithout such safeguards the consequences of an extended role for journalists could be as dangerous to society as their silence” (Goodfield, p. 86). Specifically, to achi eve understanding, Bowes and Stamm (1979) suggested making new and abstract ideas familia r by relating them to something familiar. They call this “interpretation” (p. 26). The obligation of the jo urnalist is to maintain the ethic – doing justice to a ll situations by digging hard enough and deep enough to bring out the truth. It is not as if the ethics of good journalism are not there, but in the rush to press, they may be ignored, bypassed, or just forgotten (Goodfield, 1981). Additionally, journa lists should address the aspects of uncertainty when it comes to science or risk (Gregory, 1991). Journalist s need to explain rese arch procedures and scientific concepts, includi ng validity of tests and unde rstanding methodology (Nelkin, 1995). The press usually believes that science holds the answers, but the press should respect scientists when they say they don’t know the exact risks (Nelkin, 1995). Premature publication of scientific data need s to be avoided, and scientific limitations need to be mentioned. Perhaps the media s hould act as “an early warning system” to identify hazards before they reach such an advanced state that repair is impractical, suggested Rubin and Sachs (1973). They reporte d that the media must inform the public of environmental practices being considered by government or business before they have been adopted and should be particularly alert to instances where laws are being violated.


42 Also, they suggest, the media should attempt to synthesize for the pub lic the solutions to environmental problems put forth by govern ment, citizen groups, business, and the academic and scientific communities” (p. 250). Sharma (2000) called for journalists who understand and appreciate science and who are at the same time deeply concerned about the environmental crisis and the future of the human society. She continued that jour nalists need to be able to explain the implications of new technology expressed in gl obal treaties, legisl ation and undertakings (p. 88). Additionally, journalists covering sc ience and the environment might do well to ask the critical questions, and to analyze issues critically (Nelkin, 1995; Wilkins, 1997). Lazarus (1991) suggested asking the awkwar d questions, and to know the facts before asking them (p. 101). In his lecture at the “Environmental J ournalism for the 1990s” seminar, Binger (1991) talked to the media, You have traditionally been what I describe as the eyes, ears and minds of society. You, in a way, influence public opinion un like any other body of people in this society and the challenge that the medi a faces is: How do you go from what has been primarily a reactive role in waiti ng until something is said or done or an experience has happened to one in which you take a more pro-active role in which you yourselves become voices for change, for second thoughts, for alternative ways of looking at issues, to analyze issues, to take an issue of energy or agriculture or land degradation or deforest ation and to begin to take that as your story, to begin to research it, to look for other things, to get that communicated to the kids in school to get that communicated to the professors in schools, but above


43 all to get that communicated through pr int, through audio-visual aid, through books, or whatever else is needed to get that into the minds of people. (p. 157) As Valenti (1998) stated, If journalists do not advocate complete information, the consequence is misunderstanding and poor judgmen ts” (p. 229). Overall, the press should be dedicated to the goal of better co mmunication, understanding, and cooperation, believes Nelkin (1995). The literature also agrees that journalists shoul d strive to remain objective (Archibald, 1999; Fi sher, 1974; Flannery, 2000). Sellers and Jones (1973) suggested th at the media turn to academics or conservation expert sources, place effort into providing information before decisions are made about urban growth planning, and, to br ing more information to the public domain by accessing government records (p. 57) Because scientists are fearful of the consequences that could result from becoming entangled with the media, journalists must remember that scientists aren’t always neutral sources of information. They may actively seek a favorable press for his/her profession. Journalists need to cite other groups be sides experts in a science article to avoid expert bias, suggested Nelkin (1995). Journalists al so need to be aware that public relations groups often control the information the media gets. Sachsman (1976) suggested designating a special reporter to the envi ronmental beat who is given the time to analyze information and be a “w atchdog” (p. 59). As La Follette (1990) stated, “A clearer view will be healthy for all concerned – for scientists as well as the public” (p. 184). Using ordinary people w ho are dealing with environmental consequences, as well as the regular, authoritative sources could al so enrich coverage (Detjen, 1997; Wilkins, 1997). Overall, diverse sources should be us ed (Fisher, 1974; Hertsgaard, 1989; Sandman


44 et al., 1987). Sandman et al (1987) suggested reporters find sources who can answer questions about the degree of risk, under what circumstances and with what degree of certainty (p. 101). In addition to improving audience unde rstanding, doing thorough background work, or homework, and being diligent about source use, journalists covering the environment are encouraged to maintain c overage on a persistent basis with follow-up stories (Detjen, 1997; Sandman et al., 1987). Hall (2001) wrote an article about the resurgence of environmental reporting due to the contr oversy over George Bush’s administration policies. In the end, Hall quotes Phil Shabecoff, “The environment isn’t a one-shot news story – it’s something that needs to be covered in-depth, day after day” (p. 10). Friedman (1999) said editors and news di rectors should become more innovative in the way they cover stories about l ong-term uncertain science. She found, Media organizations could also duplic ate for other uncertain subjects the innovative approach attempted in the fall of 1997 by The New York Times with its unprecedented coverage of climate cha nge issues. Concentrating on detailing and explaining the scientific political, economic, and soci al ramifications of the issue, the newspaper published more than 200 articles that mentioned the subject between September and December…The sheer quantity of stories, if nothing else, drew readers’ attention to this uncertain issue in a new way, indicating its growing importance to the country and the world. Su ch innovative efforts need to continue and grow. The media must recognize the obs tacles inherent in covering long-term scientific issues, such as dioxin, and find fresh approaches to them. Only in this


45 way will they provide coverage that allo ws the public to understand the evolving nature of uncertain science. (p. 133) Issues surrounding the environm ent take a long time to develop, and coverage might improve if it follows in being persistent and long-lasting. Another way to improve environmental coverage is through a framework of ethics. The literature offers several possibl e foundations of ethics. The ethics of good journalism must apply with special force to th e reporting of science a nd scientific issues (Goodfield, 1981). Wilkins (1997) suggested th at environmental journalists use an alternative frame, “founded in a more comm unitarian world view” (p. 204). The way to this frame is by speaking two languages, t hose Enlightenment ones concerning rights and roles, and those communitarian values of connection and resp onsibility. Overall, “it is focusing on the issue of coopera tion that journalists, through the response of the viewers and readers, stand to contribut e to the long term health of the body politic” (p. 212). “The goal of such coverage would be to expa nd both understanding of the issue and the potential policy debates surrounding the questi on, and to empower the stakeholders in a process that is clearly going to affect those living now, as well as those living in the millennia to come” (p. 213). Valenti and Wilkins (1995) developed a pr otocol for ethical risk communication with the following tips for journalists “Journa lists have a responsib ility to seek this information from a multiplicity of sources and to report it accurately and in a context that includes not only the facts of science but of economics and politics as well” (p.185). “When journalists are reporti ng risk the resulting stories should facilitate public participation in a communi cation process” (p. 186).


46 Allen (2002) wrote about the duty of journalists. “Journa lists are charged with the responsibility of imposing meaning upon uncertain ties, that is, it is expected that they will render intelligible the underlying signifi cance of uncertainties for their audiences’ everyday experiences of modern life” (p. 91-92). He continue d, “the identification of the slips, fissures, silences and gaps in media reporting needs to be simultaneously accompanied by a search for alternatives. Ne w ways need to be found to enhance the forms and practices of scien ce journalism in a manner consistent with today’s moral and ethical responsibilities for tomorrow” (p. 95). Griswold and Swenson (1993) found that journalists covering the environment should adopt the global perspe ctive prevalent in environmental ethics. Overall, there is agreement in the li terature that journalists covering the environment need more training (Ameri can Opinion Research, 1993; Binger, 1991; Detjen, 2001; Sandman et al., 1987; Singer and Endreny, 1993; Rubin and Sachs, 1973; Weigold, 2001). Wilkins (1990) recommended to improve environmental reporting, journalists need to be trained in environmental studies first and in journalism skills second. Additionally, Bruggers (2002) said, “Continuing education is essential on the environment beat, if only to find one’s wa y through the beat’s minefield of acronyms such as SMRCA, RCRA, CERCLA, and NEPA ” (p. 37). Detjen (1997) recommended attending workshops and seminars whenever possible (p. 174). Singer and Endreny (1993) suggested another alternative for journalists. “Perhaps what is needed is a joint effort by journali sts and scientists, sit ting around a table with some actual science reports and the news stor ies based on them, to arrive at a working guide for what, at a minimum, every such news story should c ontain” (p. 164).


47 Of course, there are also tips in th e literature on teaching environmental journalism that can apply to the practice of environmental journalism. In 1974, Fisher detailed some tips for instructors when teach ing environmental journalism in the article “Students should be prepared to cover environmental beat.” These include that students should develop a skeptical awareness of th e environmental situation, and the student needs to be shown how environmental stories ar e different from other stories (p. 47-48). Flannery (2000) wrote about teaching envi ronmental journalism and covering risk reporting elements within environmental journalism through a guidesheet with the following tips: (a) Ask, “Who is my audi ence?” Be specific in understanding your audience; (b) Be accurate; (c) Be understandab le. By this, the author means writing about risk within a neutral frame, report the facts explaining the problems related to the facts, and provide background and examples; (d) Be objective by distingui shing between facts and beliefs on both sides of an issue and men tion regulations and laws along with their impact on the arguments heard; (e) Provi de substantial completeness through the presentation of both sides with their support and evidence, an alysis of these claims in consideration of your audience, and cover the justice and scie nce of a given risk (p. 4748). Flannery found “This framework includes th e reader in an effort by the reporter to write a comprehensive treat ment of risk” (p. 48). Casey (1998) identified an educational m odel for the teaching of environmental communication by a comprehensive evaluation of the literature and an in-depth analysis of the few undergraduate programs nati onwide offering specializations in the environmental communication fields. Casey found that the ideal educational model


48 includes courses in three gene ral areas of study: sciences environmental studies, and environmental communications. These general areas are complemented with courses in natural resources sciences and management, environmental sciences and management, science communication, and ecology sciences. The environmental studies component addresses questions and issues pertaining to the cultural, historical, philosophical, and social aspects of the environment. St udies in laws and regulations, and policy and law address the political and legal questions and issues (Casey, p. 71). Casey continued, “In the ideal model, the program is rich in content and diversity, and the cirriculum includes hands-on field explora tions, conferences, colloquiums, and other discussion-based seminars” (p. 72). Friedman (1979) also promoted a course to teach environmental writing integrating the complex ity of environmental issues, environmental politics, and the tactics used in environmental information campaigns by various publics (p. 38). To sum up, several researchers have developed detailed ti p lists for journalists. In 1973, Rubin and Sachs made some very he lpful recommendations for communicating environmental news, including: 1. Media should designate a staff memb er as an environmental reporter. 2. Editors and broadcast execu tives should seriously consider creating a special environmental news page or a continuing broadcast feature. 3. The electronic media should aid in th e development of a computer-accessed archive system so that the public ca n make more effective use of the information presented by these media.


49 4. Editors and reporters should make a greater effort to provide specific information the public can use, such as the names of companies with lengthy records of violating anti-pollution laws, the performance of public officials in enforcing those laws, the way to obt ain government and academic reports about the environment, and the name s of groups lobbying for and against environmental bills. 5. Advertising acceptance departments should look with a more critical eye at the plethora of environmental advertisements that cross their desks; that is, ads claiming a product or service will improve the quality of the environment. 6. Reporters should attempt to extend the adversary rela tionship they now maintain in covering public officials to reporting on private industry as well. 7. News executives should seek to report on the growth of their communities with all the experience and wisdom about population increase, unplanned development, and regional growing pa ins that recent years have brought. 8. Without surrendering balance and fair ness in reporting, newsmen should give more attention to nongovernment, noni ndustry news sources. (p. 255-256) Lastly, they believe the reporter should have so me of the insight of the biologist in order to report on the environment (p. 257). Wilkins (1987) concluded with a comprehensive overview of how journalists need to remedy some of their own shortcomings: 1. Provide a context for the event, including framing the event in the larger issues, and placing an event in perspective to others.


50 2. Provide a discussion of the science of the event, not just two sides of a question. Journalists need to inform r eaders that the answers may not be allinclusive or unilateral. 3. Broaden and significantly alter existing sourcing patterns. Journalists need to become more educated about the scientif ic aspects of stories such as Bhopal, and seek out and quote scientific experts even if what those experts say does not fit neatly into a two-sided dialogue. 4. Shift, through inclusion of context and discussion of long-term issues, the tone of news reports. Journalists need to place the issue in the context of the political, social, and economic debate s so citizens can understand the power they have to make decisions about th e issues. Comprehensive media reports can provide information to encourage di scourse that can lead to change. (p. 151-154) Tips to the science journalist are al so helpful to consider when doing environmental journalism. Offering some guide lines for reporters c overing science news, Rowan (1999) suggested journalists should he lp audiences think like scientists about science news, provide balance and accuracy in science news, and understand and explain complex scientific information (p. 219-220). In the end, as Willis and Okunade (1997) found, “The best of the science writers, however, will find a way to do what the best reporters do: convey factual and significant information in an interesting way that doesn’t distort or rob the news of its meaning” (p. 14).


51 We find, then, tips to improve environmenta l journalism in the literature including understand audience needs, address issues th oroughly, find and use di verse sources, cover the environment persistently, use an ethica l framework, increase journalist training, expose and encourage debate, ask the critical questions and analy ze issues critically, advocate complete, objective informa tion, and think lik e a scientist.


52 CHAPTER THREE Analysis of Handbooks Covering the Environment Written by Keating (1993) and published by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which exists to advance environmentally sustainable development, this handbook was also published in conjunction with the graduate school of Journalism at the University of Western Ontario. Additional funding for Covering the Environment came from the Laidlaw Foundation a nd the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The handbook was obtained through the resear cher’s library. The creation of this guide included a rigorous process that started with the creation of a course on environmental journali sm for editors and ne ws directors in 1991. In a “message to journalists about envir onmental education,” the handbook stated, “The aim of the program is to give journalists accurate information on environmental issues, and ideas on how to research and write envi ronment stories that ar e both interesting and balanced. There are sessions on environmen tal issues, sustainable development and environmental journalism” (p. 161). Students in the 1992 course evaluated material for the handbook, and the final was published in 1993. The handbook maintains throughout the 164 pages, a Canadian perspective. As the earliest published handbook in this thesis’ examina tion, it set a solid standard, with 63 pages of analysis of key i ssues including hard science, 10 pages on the


53 practice of environmental journalism, and 69 pages of reference, including definitions, statistics, contacts, a reading list, and other practical featur es for the working journalist. In the Preface, Leone Pippard, the chair for the Task Force on Education at the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy wrote, “It is this recognized power to influence the masses that confers on the media a sp ecial responsibility towards society. As such, if Canada and the world ar e to achieve sustainable development, what does this imply for the media?” (p. ix). By prompting such a question, the Preface set the tone for the handbook. The tone assumes sustai nable development is a goal of society, and should be for the media as well. As explained in the handbook, sustainable development is a term defined by the Br undtland Commission, the World Commission on Environment and Development, as, Humanity has the ability to make devel opment sustainable – to ensure that it meets needs of the present without compro mising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs…At a minimu m, sustainable development must not endanger the natural systems that support li fe on earth: the water, the soils, and the living beings. (p. 69) As well, ethics for media practitioners ar e implied with Pippard’s statement, in mentioning the media’s “special responsibil ity.” Furthermore, in the Introduction, Keating (1993) wrote, “The media have a heavy responsibility, because they are the primary source of environmental informati on for most people” (p. 1). An emphasis on ethics is initially evident, an ethic that supports sustainable development. This frame around the handbook is not surprising, consid ering the publisher, National Round Table on the Environment and Economy, advances sustainable development.


54 The first main section, “Environmental Issues and Sustainable Development” discussed air, land, water, and additional ma jor environmental issues. Graphs, maps and lists were spaced throughout, such as “Urban Settlements in Canada” (p. 30) and “Mean Concentrations of PCBs in coho salmon from the Credit River, On tario, 1972-89” (p. 45). Concerning science, terms like methane, ni trous oxide, and chloro fluorocarbons (p. 11) were clearly explained with background information. Because the handbook was written more than 10 years ago, information about regulations and technol ogy is likely outdated, but fundamental concepts were clearly e xplained and remain valid. For instance, In order to meet new pollution standards, electric utilities use air pollution control devices called scrubbers, burn low-su lphur coal and use new forms of combustion. Scrubbers spray fine limest one into waste gases to capture the sulphur before it goes up in the smokestack. (p. 24). Such an explanation of scrubbers is definitely applicable and useful to journalists today, even though “new pollution standards” are lik ely different. This fi rst section concluded with “Some principles of sustainability” (p. 76). Some of the listed objectives for sustainable development included stewards hip, conservation, and scientific and technological innovation (p. 76-80). The ha ndbook teaches environmental journalists about environmental issues through a frame of ethics in support of sustainable development. Section Two, “Environmental Journalism” (p. 81) serves as a worthy summary of the scholarship on environmenta l journalism. It described th e beginning of environmental journalism, the challenges of covering the environment, and makes some recommendations for journalist s including: learn the basics about ecosystems, go out into


55 the field when doing environmen tal journalism, tips on how to analyze “green” products, and questions to ask to get a sense of wh ether or not something is environmentally damaging. In the end of this section, Kea ting (1993) wrote, “The health of the environment, including humans, and the res ources on which we base our economy, is at stake, and journalists have a duty to fairly a nd accurately explain risks and alternatives to people” (p. 93). It appears the main “tip” in Covering the Environment is to approach environmental journalism with an ethical framework that encompasses sustainable development. The language of responsi bility and duty exemplify this. In the final section, measurements, symbol s, statistics on water, forestry, cans and bottles, contacts, definitions, and a reading li st inform and guide j ournalists. Especially interesting are the statistics provided, like, “It takes 43 per cent less energy to recycle paper, than to process raw wood” (p. 103), whic h help journalists in providing interesting key facts. Searching for statistics like these can consume a journalist’s time. Overall, the handbook is comprehensive with numerous definitions, tips, and visuals, in combination with a framework bu ilt on an ethic of sustainable development. This is one of the only handbooks examined with an identifiable purpose, supporting ethical environmental journalism that supports sustainable development. Ten Practical Tips for Environmental Reporting The shortest handbook examined, Ten Practical Tips for Environmental Reporting is a lightweight, easy-to-read, mo tivational handbook. Published by the International Center for Journalists with s upport from the World Wide Fund for Nature,


56 53 pages offered 10 chapters with titles as sp ecific tips, and then within each chapter, more specific tips, including lucid sidebars called “Keep in Mind.” The Foreword explained how environmen tal journalism differs from other types of journalism. It is broad, interdependent, complex, technical, imprecise, and emotional (p. vii-viii). However, in some ways, “Good environmental reporting should be the same as any other good journalism: make it inte resting; write it clearly; explain the complexities to the audience; and raise solutions – not just problems” (p. viii). Written more than the other handbooks from the standpoint of a journalist and in the language of journalism, this handbook sta nds out from the othe rs because it doesn’t concentrate on explaining environmental scie nce and issues, but offered general tips for journalists while on the environmental beat. Th e introduction claims that there were two main themes in the handbook: (a) Reporters n eed to keep their a udience in mind, and (b) Reporters should ask questions (p. ix). Such simple tips are not tailored for the environmental journalist who is striving to become an expert or to do an in-depth story, but more for any journalist covering any subj ect. In actuality, these tips could broadly apply to more than just the environmental journalist’s beat, and serve to improve the coverage of more beats th an just the environment. The ten “practical tips” in the handbook include: 1. Write original stories. 2. Build and maintain good sources. 3. Prepare in advance. 4. Translate environmental jargon. 5. Make the story alive and relevant.


57 6. Think twice about statistics. 7. Report science carefully. 8. Look for hidden interests. 9. Seek balance. 10. Don’t forget follow-up stories. These tips are indeed practical, sensible reminders. As the Introduction read, this handbook found, “The only prerequisite for good environmental reporting is being a good reporter” (p. xi). This tone is carrie d out through the remainder of the handbook. Each chapter offered essential tips co ncerning the routines journalists go through, and other tips to remember about doing quali ty journalism in general. For example, “When a press release arrives, the first question a reporter should ask is whether it contains news” (p. 1). Anothe r general journalism tip, “J ournalists must never report stories with the goal of pleasing their sources” (p. 8). And, as always, “Reporters need to anticipate readers’ questions,” (p. 18). However, there are specific tips for environmental journalism as well. “Good scie nce reporting is essential to good environmental reporting” (p. 29). Keep environmental stories alive by looking for environmental stories in other beats, or think like ecologists and look fo r connections (p. 39-40). Additionally, the author suggested in reference to ozone cove rage, “The public would have been better informed if reporters had focused on the overall ozone picture, and less on the ‘doomsday’ prediction” (p. 31). Journalis ts covering any b eat, including the environmental beat, could refresh and possi bly improve their skills by reading this handbook.


58 In contrast to the others, this handbook di d address the debate over whether or not journalists covering the environment should assume an advocate role. After a brief discussion, Nelson writes, “Journalists shoul d not impose their values on a story. A journalist’s good basic skills should win ou t: fact-finding, verifying, and presenting information clearly” (p. 36). Such a view coinci des with the traditions of journalists on all beats, not just the environmental beat. Sidebars labeled “Keep in Mind” are the only visual in this short handbook. These boxes include tips such as, “Avoid putting several complex ideas into one paragraph” (p. 2), “Reread your story and ask yourself: Have I accurately and appropriately translated the scientific jargon and term s?” (p. 15), and “Ask your s ource for examples” (p. 37). Reminders like these are often already s econd nature to experienced journalists. However, as reminders, they are motiva tional for the veteran journalist. Ten Practical Tips for Environmental Reporting is a reasonable guide for new journalists on the environmental beat, and a pleasant refresher for veteran journalists covering the beat. With 6 glossary pages at the end with techni cal terms, the handbook presented a mix of information, but mostly, th e information is about doing environmental journalism well by doing journalism well. This handbook is a basic, motivational, quick read for the journalist who occasionally covers environmental issues or any other general reporter. For information on a certain environmental issue, the journalist will have to go elsewhere for the answers. For some solid, pr actical tips for the beginner, this handbook serves that end well.


59 Environmental Issues for the ‘90s This handbook addressed 16 different envi ronmental issues in a thick, dense, spiral bound handbook. Written by Robert Logan with Marie Tessier and Stacy Christiansen (1995), Environmental Issues for the ‘90s was published by The Media Institute, a nonprofit research foundation sp ecializing in communications policy issues. The Preface mentioned the challenges journa lists covering the environment in the ‘90s face, First, to develop an understanding of th e new realities of Washington and to use that understanding in the service of accu rate and objective reporting. Second, to help audiences relate that developments in their local communities to the new zeitgeist of federal and state environmental reporting. (p. xi) Then, a suggestion, “The reporter who can combine a clear-headed policy perspective with an understanding of an i ssue’s scientific bac kground will be a giant step ahead of the competition” (p. xi). What The Media Institute believed was the challenge at hand is the administration of the ‘90s. Every chapter included a subsection explai ning “What is it?” about each issue as well as a subsection on the “History” of issu es. The authors quoted numerous sources in each chapter, which directs journalists in finding primary sources when researching an issue in depth. As well, each chapter include d “Questions reporters should ask” about an issue, concerning the technical aspects of science, and the pr actical aspects of economics, politics, and law, such as “What is the st ate of biochemical/immunological evidence that EMFs (Electromagnetic fields) can lead to cancer?” (p. 39) and “I s it financially and ecologically practical to establish corridors for wildlife preservation in areas used for


60 logging, farming, ranching, tourism, a nd economic development?” (p. 53). Environmental Issues for the ‘90s encourages journalists to ask the hard questions. There also was a suggested reading list at the end of each chapter, dire cting journalists to additional sources in order for journalists to more quickly obtain the background information needed on a topic. One stylistic technique that stands out is the handbook’s use of metaphors, such as the comparison of acid rain levels to tomato juice (p. 2). In utilizing metaphors, the handbook sets an example of a tool journalist s can use when transl ating science into terms that audiences can understand. In a ddition, much of the content of the handbook was about research studies, which also fam iliarizes journalists with a good example to follow when writing about environmental i ssues. Each chapter referenced 20 to 80 different primary sources used. Tips offered included places for journalists to watch. For example, “Improvements in refining coal that could lower acid emissions and coal’s conversion into synfuels are developments for journalist s to watch” (p. 63) a nd “Reporters should look to these researchers to provide critical – and perhaps the most exciting – new information on EMFs in the near future” (p. 35). In the chapter “The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming” Logan et al. (1995) e nded with, “As corporate and governmental policies shift, reporters will not want to lose sight of (1) the extent to which multinational corporation invest in ongoing scientific research on greenho use emissions…” (p. 96) and continued with four other thi ngs journalists should remain vigilant about concerning this issue. Another suggestion for journalists was, “Certainly, it will be interesting for journalists to see if the EP A can reinvent its management strategies, particularly


61 regarding the regulation of hazardous wast es” (p. 118). Thus, the handbook performs a crystal ball like function. For example, “The possibility that some pesticide problems could be solved in the kitchen sink is an in triguing future policy option and news story” (p. 181). Perhaps the authors were trying to cap ture the reader’s in terest, and hint at possible leads for stories. Additionally, the handbook assumes journali sts need to remain unemotional when reporting, for it presented the point that, “The rhetoric from all sides during the U.N. Population Conference reflected the extent of dissent and reinforced the challenge to journalists to report abou t population unemotionally” (p. 131). The language assumes journalists already understand th eir challenge to be objective. The handbook offered information that was current as of December 1994 as a starting point to find contacts for stories, admitting that future changes in government will bring changes in contact information. Re gardless, this information was thorough, and encompassed much of the book, in more than 60 pages in the second main section of the handbook. These contacts were divided into Go vernment Organizations (p. 235), Trade Associations/Industry Groups (p. 255), Envir onmental/Public Intere st Groups (p. 263), and Resources for Journalists like the Soci ety of Environmental Journalists (p. 297). Environmental Issues for the ‘90s presents a plethora of information, pointing reporters in the appropriate di rections to investigate an en vironmental story, considering the economics, science, and politics. It can save considerable amounts of time, as it provides a thorough discussion of each topic, and the general bac kground up to the 1995 status of a single issue was explained and doc umented through just one chapter, from 10 to 20 pages each. Uncertain, mixed science was also addressed, citing the different sides


62 of complex environmental issues. There is no obvious bias, and there were almost no visual elements except for a couple of lists, like “Current EPA Tolerances for Chemicals in Community Water Systems” (p. 216). Overal l, this handbook is useful for the serious environmental journalist who has some time to write a more investigative environmental piece. Covering Key Environmental Issues Available for free download, ( http://www.rtnda.org/resour ces/ckei/contents.shtml ) Covering Key Environmental Issues (1999) was also attainable through the researcher’s library. The Radio-Television News Directors Foundation an d Association created its Environmental Journalism Ce nter in 1991, and published this handbook for the first time that year. This study looks at the most recent 4th edition, published in 1999. The introduction stated, “Helping your community understand how the changing environment has a local impact is an important and challenging task” (p. 3). To help with this challenge, the Environmental Health Center for the Radio and Television News Directors published this handbook. “We hope you find this resource helpful in providing your audience with the highest qu ality coverage of these importa nt issues” (p. 3) read the Introduction When referring to “quality” coverage, Covering Key Environmental Issues means community based coverage of environmental i ssues. At the end of each chapter, a page with a box of 8 to 14 “Story Ideas” prompts re porters to approach environmental issues through their own local community. For exampl e, “What are major ‘i ndirect sources’ of air pollution in your area – fo r instance, large shopping malls theater complexes, sporting


63 arenas? What are they doing to help reduce air pollution from the crowds and vehicles they attract?” (p. 10). From the first to the last chapter, th e handbook encourages the incorporation of local angles into environmental stories. “What are the trends on wetlands acreage in your community? What major factors have led to directi ons in those trends? What are local governing agencies doing to adequately protect the region’s wetlands?” (p. 98). The Environmental Jo urnalism Center’s idea of “quality coverage” is community-based, local coverage of the environment. Each chapter discussed one major environm ental issue for four to 9 pages, and includes bold, bulleted points at the begi nning pointing out why each issue should be covered. Each chapter also incl uded a section explaining the ke y players of an issue. Both of these features are helpful for reporters in order for them to b ecome familiar with the reasons environmental issues are important, and also informs reporters about which groups, organizations, or arms of the govern ment are contact sour ces, or key players involved with certain issues. Overall, Covering Key Environmental Issues is the handbook with the most visuals, including charts, sidebars, maps and tables like “Sprawl Statistics” (p. 20) and “Recycling of Municipal Waste by Major Countries” (p. 87). Additionally, the handbooks’ text was laid out much like a news paper, with several narrow columns per page. This makes the handbook reader-friendly to the eye and mind, he lping to gain and keep the reader’s attention. Tips for journalists were often hidden in the text explai ning the subjects. A majority of each chapter was devoted to environmental laws and regulations, but among the technical information explaining the le gislation were tips and suggestions. One


64 incident of this took place in the “Story Ideas.” It referred to the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, explaining, “Reporters should expect to encounter sources who shorthand this term as ‘NPDES’ as in ‘nipdees.’ Once delegated to a state, professionals in the field may refer to ‘SPDES,’ and pronounce it either as ‘sipdees’ or as ‘speedies’” (p. 17). Specific information lik e this can save a reporter much time and confusion. Other tips included, “Reporters focusing solely on the smokestack industries – those most heavily targeted by state and fe deral pollution control laws – are missing an important and growing part of the story,” ( p. 25). On page 28, there was a sidebar, “How Can Reporters Separate PR Chaff from Subs tantive Wheat?” These types of suggestions are like insider pieces of information, wh ich a reporter can definitely benefit from. “Watch for each side to try to shift the bur den of proof to the other,” (p. 33). The handbook suggested “healthy skepticism” (p. 81) and explained, “Journalists do not need to understand the math behind the probability calculations as long as they understand and interpret the reasoning based on them” (p. 81). Again, some insider information was provided, “Reporters likely wi ll find few cases in which supposed science-based studies championed by a party at interest differ wi dely from the sponsoring interests’ policy preferences” (p. 81). In talking abou t wetlands, the handbook advised, “Reporters sometimes will hear them referred to as ‘wetlands,’ and at other times as ‘marshes,’ ‘swamps,’ or ‘bogs’” (p. 94). Explanations like these are things a reporter might know after some time on the environmental beat, but until one reaches that point of knowledge, such tips and information se rve as useful time-savers.


65 In the middle of the handbook, Chapter 7, some interesting language appeared. “Journalists have a responsibi lity to report a balanced pe rspective that takes into account…” (p. 46). This type of language em phasizes personal responsibility and ethics. “Journalists are often left with the responsib ility of weighing conflicting opinions from those who quantify risk” (p. 60) read Chapter 9 on Public Health. In describing what environmental journalism is, Covering Key Environmental Issues wrote, “The environmental beat is full of competing scientific views…Worse yet, environmental reporters must deal with not just one or two sciences, but an enormous range of sciences: toxico logy, genetics, atmospheric chemistry…” (p. 80). Also, Reporters covering environmental health and resources issues may find that helping their audiences sort out the various scientific cl aims and counterclaims is among the most challenging work they will face in attempting to communicate knowledgeably and fairly. They also will li kely find their successes in doing so to be among the most professionally reward ing in their work, and among the most valuable in helping their audiences be tter understand and influence environmental decision-making. (p. 80) This type of description clar ifies the challenges and rewards of environmental journalism, while defining it simultaneously. At the end of the 14 chapters on environm ental issues, there was an appendix with acronyms and abbreviations, and a glossary 12 pages long, and then a bulk of contacts and resources by subject in alphabetical orde r for 27 pages. Devoting this many pages to this information emphasizes the importance of understanding acronym s, and the use of sources in environmental stories.


66 Overall, the handbook stands out through th e visual components, legal content, and resource list at the end. It suggests environmen tal journalists understand environmental law, be community oriented, know and identify key players involved in the issues, and understand the importance of environmental issues. The format is professional, easy to read and interesting, as might be expected from a professional organization like RTNDF. The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook Published by Rutgers University Press, The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook was a joint undertaking of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s School of Public Health and Rutgers, the St ate University of New Jersey. Funded by the Hazardous Substance Management Research Center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the Environmental and Occupationa l Health Sciences Institute provided additional support for this third edition of the handbook. Written by West, Lewis, Greenberg, Sachsman, and Rogers (2003), The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook featured three main sec tions. The first, “Getting Started,” introduced the reader to the basi cs of covering environmental issues and includes some important tips. “Always speak to at least two experts…to verify facts” (p. 5) wrote the authors. In disc ussing reporting on companies and in stitutions that have been in an environmental controversy, the authors wr ote, “While some may not lead very far, others can prove to be very productive, especi ally when the reporter considers all possible angles of the story” (p. 10). In commenting on how to handle scientif ic disagreement or uncertainty, West et al. (2003) reminded th e reader, “Answers c ontain implicit value


67 judgments about the trade-offs between public health and cost” (p. 19). Tips like these rise above simple reminders to adhere to th e normal dictums of j ournalism. These tips are specific and valuable to the environmenta l journalist who is not an expert on environmental issues. The last part of the first section explained how to track down a company’s environmental record, which can be extremely helpful fo r journalists covering the environment. In that first section of the handbook, a ch apter on “The Language of Risk” was provided. The authors said, “To write a story accurately about an environmental topic, a reporter must be sensitive to the language of risk and hazard” (p. 3). The authors explained tips on how to do this in their chap ter on risk. To continue this point, language on the back of the book jacket referred to the handbook as a reference needed “to understand and communicate environmental risks, ” and another description read that the book “contains a short background chapter on ever y imaginable kind of risk situation.” The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook approaches environmental journalism within the frame of reporting on risk. Indeed, not all risk stories are envir onmental stories, but most environmental stories include elemen ts of risk. As the most recent handbook examined in this thesis, this handbook hints at the should-be-future-frame of environmental journalism. The second main section of the handbook, “The Larger Context,” looked at journalists’ own perspectives on covering the environment, th e role they play, and some of the challenges they face, including how press releases can manipulate the environmental agenda. Three pages of thoughts on the future of environmental policy and regulation ended this second section, cr eating a thorough introduc tion for journalists


68 covering the environment before the ha ndbook begins to explain science, policy, economics, risk, and other factors contri buting to environmental issues. Often, background information on environmental journali sm itself is exactly what journalists do not have, but benefit fr om knowing and understanding. The final section, “Briefs,” was more than 200 pages, and as the authors wrote, “the main thrust of the book” (p. 26). The purpos e of these briefs “is to clarify the hazard side of high-outrage environmental risks. Th ese risks are heavily covered because they are controversial, that is, because they are significant outrages. The briefs that follow should make it easier to judge a nd report their hazard” (p. 26). The 28 different briefs are topics the authors provided background information on and sources for, in response to their survey on environmental health i ssues that journalists identified as most important in their own co mmunities. With an approach that responds to the results from a survey of what journalist s said they needed on the environmental beat, the handbook takes an academic, applied rese arch approach for the method of their handbook’s content. Two subsections -“Important Points for Researching a Story” and “Avoiding Pitfalls” proved to be the most valuable information in the briefs. Revealed in the “Important Points for Researching a Story” is insider information th at only an expert environmental journalist would be able to recommend. For example, in the brief on Cancer and Other Disease Cluste r Claims, the authors noted, In situations where the p opulation at risk is too sm all to achieve statistical significance, public health agencies s hould not ignore these cases. Disease prevention practices and strategi es still need to be put in place. It is important that


69 journalists include in their stories ways for the public to minimize exposure and/or reduce the risk of disease. (p. 115). Additionally, in the same chapter, the subs ection “Avoiding Pitfalls ” assists in warning journalists about possible mistakes, and about what has gone wrong in journalism on the subject previously. Consider whether there was exposure and whether there are alternative explanations for the suspected cluster. Those factors should not only go into the story, but they should also go into the decision as to how “big” to play the story. This is especially true when writi ng stories about nei ghborhoods affected by hazardous waste sites. (p. 116) Providing information like this can aid a journalist in not only improving the quality of environmental journalism, but the quantity of environmental journalism as well. This information saves times, clarifies some im portant aspects of the issues, and directs journalists in an easy to identify “Do’s and D on’t’s” fashion. As a re sult, journalists have more time to produce more quality stories. Overall, The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook assists journalists by providing a thorough introduction to environmental journa lism, presenting the language of risk, and supplying insider, expert information on enviro nmental stories that journalists may not be able to find elsewhere until spending more time on the beat. As the most current document out of the handbooks examined, the handbook hints at what will come in future training of environmental journalists. The bigge st tip from the authors is to incorporate risk information into environmental journalism.


70 CHAPTER FOUR Conversation Between the Literature and the Handbooks Several topics of convers ation surface between the literature on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmenta l journalism. From the standpoint of a journalist, the lite rature acts as the inte rviewer and the handbooks as the interviewee. The literature introduces a point or topic, and the handbooks re spond, often in agreement. Herein is an examination of the simila rities and differences, or agreements and disagreements between the two. Unless otherwis e mentioned, the researcher refers to the handbooks as a single entity, with several common features generally shared among them. The only handbook that may not alwa ys be included when referring to the handbooks is Ten Practical Tips for Environmental Reporting This was the handbook most different from the others as it did not thoroughly expl ain the science, or offer a lengthy list of sources. As well, the researcher refers to the literature as one entity. As mentioned in the liter ature review, the scholars hip presented criticisms, challenges, and tips. Criticisms of environm ental journalism included lack of context, confusing story framing, coverage with insu fficient information, an emphasis presented that differs from reality, reports of events rather than issues, a focus on conflict or entertainment, no inclusion of solutions to environmental problems, use of traditional news sources, simplistic stories that donÂ’t make larger connections, coverage that is crisis-oriented, the making of sc ience as more certain than it really is, a reliance on press


71 releases, a lack of l ong-term coverage, “Afghanistanism,” or coverage that lacks locality, and stories that sell rather than inform. Challenges to environmental journalist s included news traditions, advertiser pressure, management policy, editors, space, time, finances, complexity of the environment beat, the relationships the envir onment has with other beats, translation of scientific or technical info rmation, reporting repercussion s, the uncertainty of the environment, disagreement between sources on the facts, the need to find the new, competition with other news, education of journalists who report about the environment, and the advocate versus objective role on the environmental beat. Tips to improve environmental journa lism in the literature included understand audience needs, address issu es thoroughly, find and use di verse sources, cover the environment persistently, use an ethical fr amework, increase jour nalist training, expose and encourage debate, ask the critical questi ons and analyze issues critically, advocate complete, objective information, a nd think like a scientist. Specifically, the qualitative document anal ysis of the handbooks revealed that the handbooks addressed environmental jour nalism in five different ways. Covering the Environment encouraged journalists to report within a frame of sustainable development. Ten Practical Tips for Environmental Reporting suggested journalists simply become better journalists, and therefore beco me better environmental journalists. Environmental Issues for the ‘90s encouraged journalists to delve deep er into the research on a story, and offers extremely thorough explanations of th e issues and hundreds of primary sources. Covering Key Environmental Issues prompted journalists to report environmental issues


72 through a community-based approach. Lastly, The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook encouraged journalists to approach th e environment through a frame of risk. As is shown in the following sectio ns, through the conversation between the scholarship and the handbooks, the handbooks res pond to the criticisms in the literature. The handbooks agree that there are major links between science, ri sk, health, and the environment, that environmental journalists should be thorough and address the larger issues, that journalists shoul d understand and follow environmental issues so the real issues may be addressed, that journalist s should cover the long-term issues and not simply use press releases for a story, and th at an array of sources should be used. In responding to the criticisms in the literature, the handbooks explain the complexities of the environmental beat, suppl y sources who can tell the story, describe contrasting research, describe how stories might be linked to othe r beats or at least hint at these connections, and promote objectivity. The only challenges that the handbooks can not address are the organi zational challenges within a media company. In responding to the tips in the literature, the handbooks are in full agreement. The handbooks support understanding audience needs and obtaining a sufficient understanding of an issue before reporting on it, support addressing environmental issues thoroughly, translating scientif ic or technical informa tion, support addressing risk, providing the history of an envi ronmental issue, the use of diverse sources, maintaining persistent, long-term coverage, advocating the dissemination of objective information, and more journali st training. Overall, the scholarship on envir onmental journalism and the handbooks on environmental journalism are “on the same page.”


73 Criticisms in Literature, Answers in the Handbooks In addressing the general subject of the environment, the literature and the handbooks agree that science, risk, health, and the environment intertwine. As the literature on environmental journa lism leads one to literature on risk, science, health, and hazard communication, the contents of the ha ndbooks refer to subjects and sources, or points of contact, also asso ciated with science, risk, and the environment. Criticizing environmental journalism for a dhering to traditional news values and being event-oriented rather th an concerned with the larger deeper issues, the handbooks respond with hundreds of pages of background in formation on an array of environmental topics. From this, a journalist can learn about a subject in le ss time, and therefore allocate more time to investigate the deeper issues. Furt hermore, this may assi st a journalist in not having to rely on traditional news values like proximity, consequence, conflict, or human interest to lead a story. In stead, handbooks help journalist s learn about the issues, and then address the issues that genuinely make news of an environmental story. Using the handbooks, journalists become more informed and can inform the public in a manner consistent with the nature of environmen tal issues. After becoming more educated, journalists can uncover more, and gain a more balanced perspective on an issue. Additionally, criticisms in the literature show environmental journalists all too often take “the easy way out” by simplifying the issues, centralizing on just one aspect of an issue, or concentrating on what will en tertain an audience. The handbooks respond to this criticism with inside information on the issues so journalists don’t feel they have to avoid the technical, scientific or larger issues to take the easy way out. With the background information provided in the handbooks about specific environmental issues,


74 journalists are already ahead of the game. From there, journalists can approach an environmental story from an already adva nced position, and possibly reveal something more meaningful, applicable, a nd newsworthy to the public. The literature finds that the media forget about an environmen tal issue after the story is once told. In other words, journali sts donÂ’t treat environmental issues like the long-term issues they are. In response, th e handbooks suggest many different story angles and ideas, questions to ask, and specific aspect s to investigate so a journalist can almost always find an alternative, new angle or fram e for any environmental topic or provide an update on a chronic issue. Sim ilarly, the handbooks supply st ory ideas and questions for journalists to ask so they can present c overage initiated by environmental issues themselves, not press releases about the issues. As the literature criticizes environmental journalism for always using the traditional, dominant sources, the handbooks pres s journalists to use an array of sources, and actually list these sources for the journalist to locate various types of contacts, easily and quickly, through telephone numbers, addr esses, e-mails, web sites, and more. Thus, most of the criticisms of enviro nmental journalism in the literature are countered by the information supplied in the handbooks. The handbooks do indeed respond to the criticisms in the literature through the cont ent they provide, offering a new, better way for journalists to approach environmental st ories so the literature does not find fault with environmental journalism in the future.


75 Challenges in the Literature Solutions in the Handbooks Accompanying the criticisms of the produc t of environmental journalism in the literature are challenges of the practice of environmental journalism. The handbooks reply to these challenges environmental journa lists, offering some information to address the restraints. With the literature mentioning challenges like the complexity of the beat, the relationships the beat has with other beats like politic s and economics, the conflicting claims of science, the difficulty in inte rpretation of issues, time constraints, and journalistsÂ’ education, the handbooks supply some solutions. Most importantly, the sheer existence of the handbooks give s journalists an alternative to digging through vol umes of books, articles, and web sites to find the facts, background information, and larger issues c oncerning water quality, global warming, and other issues related to the e nvironment. If more information is needed than what the handbooks provide, references in the handbooks dire ct journalists to a dditional sources of information. In the event that a journa list does not have e xperience reporting on environmental issues, or an education or background in science, handbooks supply some of this information to educate the journali st on where to gain additional knowledge. The handbooks definitely respond to the comple xity of the environmental beat. Explaining such complex issues in concise, brief chapters, jour nalists can acquire a general idea about nuclear waste and other environmental issues, and where to look for information on related topics. Complex envi ronmental issues are whittled down in the handbooks to make them easier to understand in a short amount of time. Reading lists and references give even more direction for more information.


76 In response to the challenge of the complex ity of the environmental beat in regard to the science and risk aspects, interpretati on of issues, and connec tion of environmental issues with other issues, the handbooks supply the basic science, and various scientific, expert, academic, government, and environment sources, which and who can tell the story for a journalist. Journali sts can ask sources to comment on the risk, or to explain or interpret what the science and risks mean. J ournalists can approach diverse sources to evaluate how topics relate, wh at that means, and what the repercussions are rather then trying to address it all on th eir own. Additionally, the handbooks often hint at, or describe how an issue might be linked to politics or economics, and what the conflicting claims are about the science or risk of an issue. Meanwhile, the handbooks provide an overview of the issues so journalists are better equipped to begi n making the connection between the environment and other larger, soci al, political, or economic issues. Understandably, one group of challenge s the handbooks can not respond to is organizational level constraint s that journalists work with in. Perhaps editors and news producers should read the ha ndbooks to have a better unders tanding of environmental journalism, and then stories about the envi ronment would be given appropriate space, time, and weight. Also, if editors and news producers examined the handbooks, they may understand environmental issues are chronic, long term issues in their own communities, not brief news events elsewhere. As far as the challenge journalists face in choosing an advocate or objective tone, most of the handbooks responded in a traditi onal fashion. They assume a journalist should remain as objective as possible, and not take on an advocate role in support of the


77 environment. Only one handbook encouraged jo urnalists to appro ach the environment through a frame supporting sustainable development. Tips in Literature, Reinforced in Handbooks Both the handbooks and the literature pr esent tips for environmental journalists. In general, most of these tips are quite sim ilar. For example, the literature emphasized understanding audience needs. Th e handbooks agree, especially Covering Key Environmental Issues which emphasizes community reporting. As well, through the condensed briefs explaining environmental issues in all the handbooks except Ten Practical Tips for Environmental Reporting the handbooks encourage journalists to obtain a solid understanding themselves be fore explaining and reporting to their audience. By supplying the critical information in the numerous briefs, the handbooks support another tip found in the literature: address environmental issues thoroughly. Environmental Issues for the ‘90s is a prime example of a handbook encouraging journalists to address environmental stories thoroughly, simply by its supply of primary sources, discussion of conflicting research, a nd explanation of the various sides of an environmental issue. Additionally, the lite rature suggested translation of environmental information, and maintenance of a historical perspec tive. Briefs in the handbooks supplied the beginning of such information to the journalist s so translation and hi storical explanation are possible to perform. While much of the literature on environmental journalism associated environmental issues with ri sk issues, so do the handbooks. Especially, The


78 Reporter’s Environmental Handbook which approaches environmental journalism with an association to risk issues. These are some of the components of the tip “Address environmental issues thoroughly” that th e literature and handbooks both support. As the literature advocates for journalists to obtain information from an array of sources, the handbooks agree. Four out of the five handbooks provided specific contact information for an array of diverse sources, as well as other tips on picking sources, and how many sources to pick. Concerning sugge stions in the literature on long-term coverage of environmental issues, the handbooks concur. Ten Practical Tips for Environmental Reporting devotes a chapter to “Don’t fo rget follow-up stories.” Through the background information for issues addr essed in the handbooks, journalists likely realizes that environmental issues are persiste nt. The nature of the environment is forever changing, and therefore, follow-up c overage would be appropriate. While several ethical frameworks are provi ded in the literature, ethics are also implied in the handbooks. The language in th e handbooks presents journalists with a “responsibility” and “duty” to in form the public, especially in Covering the Environment. However, Covering the Environment also supports an ethic associated with sustainable development. As noted before, the literatu re on the debate over whether journalists should be advocates or objective was divided. This division is in the handbooks as well, but only one handbook supported an advocate ro le for journalists, in support of sustainable development. Meanwhile, the handbooks and literature both follow the traditions of journalism and advocate the diss emination of complete information, whether this is communicated through an ethical framework or not.


79 As might be assumed, the handbooks agree th at further training for environmental journalists is recommended. As the literature supported and suggested further training for environmental journalists, so do the handbooks. The fact that the handbooks were written and published in the first place supports the suggestion for more training and education for environmental journalists.


80 CHAPTER FIVE Conclusions and Discussion The purpose of this thesis was to inve stigate how journalis ts should cover the environment, according to the conversation between the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmenta l journalism. Findings reveal that the handbooks do indeed address the challenges and cr iticisms that the scholarship presents, and that the tips in the handbooks do compare to the points made in the scholarship for improvement. The two are on the same page c oncerning the way journalists should report on the environment. The handbooks, written for practicing journalists, agree with the research and academic scholarship on environmental journalism. The conversation between the literature and handbooks is a healthy one, in agreement concerning the genera l techniques journalists should practice when covering the environment. As the literature presen ts challenges and criticisms, the handbooks suggest solutions. Most importantly, as the literature presents tip s and techniques for improvement, the handbooks agree with th e ways to improvement. Both support understanding audience needs, obtaining a solid understanding of a topic before reporting, addressing environmental issues th oroughly, translating th e science, providing the history of a topic, addr essing risk, using diverse sour ces, maintaining long-term coverage, disseminating objective informa tion, and more training for journalists.


81 In addition, the research re vealed unique suggestions and additional approaches to environmental journalism as presented in the handbooks. The handbooks offer a solid source for journalists to turn to in order to learn about environmental issues in a short time, as well as interesting, individual emphases in each. The specific approaches to environmenta l journalism presented in the handbooks include an approach that emphasizes comm unity-based coverage, an approach that encourages reporting through a frame of risk, an approach that supports reporting through an ethic in support of sustainable developmen t, an approach that encourages reporting that is extremely thorough, and an approach that improves environmental journalism through improving journalism in general. Indeed, several challenges and criticis ms of environmental journalism can be addressed and corrected by j ournalists individually through the tips, techniques, and practices agreed upon in the sc holarship and handbooks. But wh at if coverage continues to lack? Assuming that journalists do use th e handbooks, and/or begin to utilize the tips, and coverage continues to lack, the respons ibility of making changes to improve may then fall on the shoulders of news organi zations and their management and editors. Perhaps they are the ones who need to be retrained. This constitutes as a challenge that neither the handbooks nor journa lists can respond to. To respond to the organizational challenge s, the organizations themselves would need to examine their own faults in the production of environmental news. But, as revealed in the literature, traditional news values persist in the real world of news organizations, including in edit orsÂ’ minds, and often prevail over any other influences on environmental news coverage. Additionall y, the bottom line of any organization, the


82 financial aspect, has a direct impact on th e final product. Such challenges are not so easily addressed and corrected. So, criticisms in the lite rature will likely remain, as many of the challenges to journalists remain. Individually, journalis ts can increase their own knowledge on the issues, adjust their use of sources, and be conscious of their audience, among other approaches presented through the literat ure and handbooks, but then organizational interruptions will likely force coverage to conform to the rules previously made by economics, politics, and other ideological aspects of the organization. Therefore, alternative forms of media, special-niche media, and ente rprise journalism must be sought out by the public in order to obtain th e most useful information to make decisions about the environment in a democracy. Otherw ise, a hefty paradigm shift in newsrooms should take place in order to address the cha llenges that journalists themselves can not control to improve the quality of environmental journalism. In the continuous information explosi on that society remains a part of today, journalists should choose to be specialists, and organiza tions should allow them to develop a specialty. In such an environmen t, perhaps journalists would eventually become expert journalists, likel y resulting in more quality co verage. In the eyes of the researcher, specialists are capable of maintaining their duty to inform the public because practitioners can develop more understanding and knowledge in a certain field. The result would be more quality coverage in a democracy that places responsibility in the media to inform the public in a manner consistent with reality so they may better make informed decisions.


83 In conclusion, the researcher recommends the common tips and techniques revealed in the scholarship and handbooks. Environmental journalists should understand audience needs, obtain a solid understanding of an environmental topic before reporting, address environmental issues thoroughly, transl ate the science, provide the history of an environmental topic, address risk, use dive rse sources, maintain long-term coverage, disseminate objective information, and seek more training. Direction for Further Study Limitations of time, as well as space fo r discussion, pressed the researcher to condense the criticisms, challenge s, and tips revealed in the literature. Therefore, most specifics were not revealed and discussed in this thesis. An examination of the specifics in one or each of the three categories (criti cisms, challenges, and tips) might better illuminate how to improve environmental journalism more specifically. On the other hand, because the amount of literature on, and literature related to, environmental journalism is so vast, this research could not address all the possible categories in the literature. Further research on condensed, additional categor ies in the literature may benefit the body of scholarship on envi ronmental journalism in the long run. As well, applied future research c ould investigate whether environmental journalists have used specific tips and tec hniques from the handbooks in their products. A content analysis could examine stories to re veal whether they em ployed advice from the handbooks. Additionally, such a content analysis could reveal whether or not journalists are covering the environment the way they should, as instructed through the tips, techniques, and practices presented in the literature and in the handbooks.


84 Furthermore, a survey could be conduc ted to ask and answer the question, “Do reporters covering the environment actua lly use handbooks?” And if they use the handbooks, how do journalists think they c ould be made even more helpful? Lastly, a qualitative document analysis of a different group of the handbooks on the researcher’s lis t of handbooks may yield more suggestions for improvement. Handbooks encompassing only specific topics may present different additional tips and techniques.


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97 Appendix 1: List of Handbooks Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental J ournalism and United Nations Environment Programme, (1996). Reporting on tourism and environment: A backgrounder. Bangkok, Thailand: Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalism and United Nations Environment Programme. Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, (1989). Bridging the gap: A handbook for scientists a nd journalists on toxic pollution reporting Canada: Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy. Day, B. & Monroe, M.C. (Eds.). (2000). Environmental education and communication for a sustainable world: Handbook for international practitioners. Washington, D.C.: Academy for International Development. Edelson, E. (1985). The journalist's guide to nuclear energy. Bethesda, Maryland: Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc. Environmental Health Center Reporting on radon: A journal ist's guide to covering the nation's second-leading c ause of lung cancer. Washington, D.C.; National Safety Council. Environmental Health Center (2000). Chemicals, the press, and the public. Washington, D.C.: National Safety Council. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.nsc.org/ehc/guidebks/chemtoc.htm Environmental Health Center, (2000 ). Reporting on climate change: Understanding the science (2nd Ed. ). Washington, D.C.; National Safe ty Council. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.nsc.org/ehc/ guidebks/climtoc.htm

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98 Appendix 1(Continued) Environmental Health Center, (2001). A reporter's guide to Yucca Mountain. Washington, D.C.: National Safety Council. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.nsc.org/ehc/yuccamt.htm Environmental Health Center (1998 ). Coastal challenges: A guide to coastal and marine issues Washington D.C.: National Safety Council. Environmental Health Center, (1997). A reporterÂ’s guide to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Washington D.C.: National Safety Council. Retrieved October 27, 2003 from http://www.nsc.org/ehc/ guidebks/wipptoc.htm Environmental Health Center. Understanding radiation in our world. Washington, D.C.: National Safety Council. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.nsc.org/ehc/journali.htm Environmental Health Center Chemical safety in your community: Risk management backgrounders. Washington, D.C.: National Safety Council. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.nsc.org/ehc/rmp.htm Environmental Health Center. Climate and weather backgrounder series. Washington D.C.: National Safety Council. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.nsc.org/ehc/jrn/weather.htm Environmental Health Center (2002). Low level radioactive waste Washington, D.C.: National Safety Council. Environmental Health Center (1993 ). Reporting on municipal solid waste: A local issue. Washington, D.C.: National Safety Council.

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99 Appendix 1(Continued) Environmental Journalism Center (1994). World population and the environment. Washington, DC.: Radio and Tele vision News Directors Foundation. Environmental Journalism Center (1997). Childhood lead poisoning: Good news, bad news. Washington, D.C.: Radio-Televi sion News Directors Foundation. Environmental Journalism Center (1999 ). Covering key environmental issues: A handbook for journalists (4th Ed.). Washington, D.C. : Radio-Television News Directors Foundation. Environmental Journalism Center (Producer). (2003 ). Best practices in environmental journalism [Motion picture]. Available from Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation, Leslie Gwinn, leslieg@rtndf.org Environmental Journalism Center (1998). Childhood cancer: Covering this scientific mystery Washington, D.C.: Radio-Televi sion News Directors Foundation. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.rtndf.org/resources/ejco.shtml Environmental Journalism Center (1997) Clearing the air: Covering asthma and other childhood diseases Washington, D.C.: Radio-Television News Directors Foundation. Environmental Media Services (2000). ReportersÂ’ guide: Gene tic engineering in agriculture. Washington, D.C.: Environmental Media Services.

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100 Appendix 1(Continued) Friedman, S. & Friedman, K. (1988). Reporting on the environment: A Handbook for journalists. Bethlehem, PA: Department of Journalism and Communication, Lehigh University. This handbook was written for southeast Asian journalists, a nd is not available in the United States. Goldberg, D. (1999). Covering urban sprawl: Reth inking the American dream. Washington, D.C.: RadioTelevision News Director s & Foundation. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.rtndf.org/resources/sprawl/sprawl.shtml Gordon, D. The environment and childrenÂ’s health : A journalistsÂ’ resource for in depth reporting. Washington, D.C.: Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.rtnda.org/resour ces/childrenshealth.shtml Hazardous Media (2003). The reporter's hazardous assignment handbook: Wildfires (United States Ed.). Boulder, Co.: Hazardous Media LLC. International Federation of Environmental Journalists. Ciudadania planetaria. Retrieved October 26, 2004 from http://www.ifej.org/publi/publications.htm This handbook is only available in Spanish. Kamrin, M.A., Katz, D.J., & Walter, M.L. (1995). Reporting on risk: A journalistÂ’s handbook on environmental risk assessment. Michigan: Foundation for American Communications and National Sea Grant College Program.

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101 Appendix 1(Continued) Kandel, K.R. & Mainali, M. (1993). Playing with poison. Kathmandu, Nepal: Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalist s. Retrieved October 26, 2004 from http://www.nefej.org.np/_pub/books.htm Keating, M. (1993). Covering the environment: A handbook on environmental journalism. Ottawa: National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Kovarik, B., Pelaseyed, R. & Worcman, N. (1994-95). International environmental sourcebook. Reston, Va.: Center for Foreign Journalists. Logan, R.A. (1995). Environmental issues fo r the ‘90s: A handbook for journalists (1995 Ed.). Washington D.C.: The Media Institute. Moore, C.A. Beyond the spotted owl: Covering th e economy and the environment in the ‘90s. Washington, D.C.: Radio-Televi sion News Directors Foundation Moore, C. (2004). Air pollution: A reporter’s manual. Washington, D.C.: International Center for Journalists. Nelson, P. (1995). Ten practical tips for environmental reporting. Washington D.C.: International Center for Journalists. O’Donnell, F. (1994). Autos in America: Moving toward zero emissions. Washington, D.C.: Radio-Television Ne ws Directors Foundation Prato, L. (1991). Covering the environmen tal beat: an overview for radio and TV journalists. Washington, DC: E nvironmental Reporting Forum. Raloff, J. (1999). Environmental hormones: Threat s to health and reproduction?(3rd Ed. Washington, D.C.: Radio-Television Ne ws Directors Fo undation. Retrieved October 27, 2004 from http://www.rtndf.org/resources/horm/horm.shtml

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102 Appendix 1(Continued) Wartenberg, D. (1994). Epidemiology for journalists Los Angeles: Foundation for American Communications. West, B.M, Lewis, M.J., Greenberg, M.R ., Sachsman, D.B., & Rogers, R.M. (2003). The reporter's environmental handbook (3rd Ed.). New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

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103 Appendix 2: Handbooks Examined Environmental Journalism Center (1999) Covering key environmental issues: A handbook for journalists (4th Ed.). Wash ington, D.C. : Radio-Television News Directors Foundation. Keating, M. (1993). Covering the en vironment: A handbook on environmental journalism. Ottawa: National Round Tabl e on the Environment and the Economy. Logan, R.A. (1995). Environmental issues for the ‘90s: A handbook for journalists (1995) Washington D.C.: The Media Institute. Nelson, P. (1995). Ten practical tips for environmental reporting. Washington D.C.: International Center for Journalists. West, B.M, Lewis, M.J., Greenberg, M.R., Sachsman, D.B., & Rogers, R.M. (2003). The reporter's environmental handbook (3rd Ed.) New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

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104 Appendix 3: Protocol Sheet Qualitative Document Analysis Protocol to examine handbooks on environmental journalism 1. Title: 2. Author: 3. Publication year: 4. Published by: 5. Length: 6. Format (spiral bound, downloadable)? 7. Chapters, subsections in chapters? 8. Does the handbook mention the process of the bookÂ’s creati on? Methodology? 9. Tone or bias (advocate, scientif ic, formal, conversational, etc.)? 10. Writing style or techniques (word choi ce, language, content chosen, etc.)? 11. Visuals (charts, graphs, tables, pictures)? 12. List of tips or suggestions ? Call journalists to action? 13. Certain sources emphasized? References? 14. Definition of environmental journalism? Language to describe environmental journalism? 15. Overall message/meaning/theme/purpos e of the document? Key phrases? 16. Notes and quotes:


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