Thursday, 31 October 2013

Surprise, surprise - most Australian newspapers ignore peer-reviewed climate change science

The Guardian 31 October 2013:

One third of articles in Australia’s major newspapers rejected or cast doubt on the overwhelming findings of climate science, with climate sceptic Andrew Bolt monopolising coverage of the topic in several high-circulation News Corporation titles, according to a new analysis.
A study of 602 articles in 10 newspapers by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism found that 32% dismissed or questioned whether human activity was causing the climate to change. The articles were analysed between February and April in 2011 and again in the same period in 2012.
Significantly, newspapers based a small fraction of their coverage on peer-reviewed science, instead relying heavily on comment pieces penned by writers without a scientific background.
According to the research, the number of articles on climate science decreased in 2012 compared to the previous year, although the tone became more sharply sceptical of the established scientific position in this period.
When measured according to words allocated to an article, 31% did not accept established climate science in 2011, with this number rising to 44% in 2012.
The high levels of scepticism were driven by the editorial leanings of market-leading News Corporation titles and, in particular, its syndicated columnist Andrew Bolt, the study found.....

The Australian Centre for Independent Journalism 2012 study:

The Australian Centre for Independent Journalism 2011 study:


·    Overall, negative coverage of the Gillard government’s carbon policy across ten newspapers outweighed positive coverage across ten Australian newspapers by 73% to 27%. (Note: After neutral items were discounted).See Section 4.5, Content of articles: Stance towards the 2011 Carbon Reduction Policy
·     All papers contained some positive and a substantial amount of neutral material. The highest level of neutral articles was found in The Age and The Mercury, the lowest level was found in the NT News and The Daily TelegraphSee Section 4.5, Content of articles: Stance towards the 2011 Carbon Reduction Policy
·     After neutral items were discounted, negative coverage (82%) across News Ltd newspapers far outweighed positive (18%) articles. This indicates a very strong stance against the carbon policy adopted by the company that controls most Australian metropolitan newspapers, and the only general national daily. See Section 4.5, Content of articles: Stance towards the 2011 Carbon Reduction Policy
·     By comparison, Fairfax was far more balanced in its coverage of the policy than News Ltd publications with 57% positive articles outweighing 43% negative articles.See Section 4.5, Content of articles: Stance towards the 2011 Carbon Reduction Policy
·         The Age was more positive (67%) rather than negative towards the policy than any other newspaper. The Daily Telegraph was the most negative (89%) rather than positive of newspapers. See Section 4.5, Content of articles: Stance towards the 2011 Carbon Reduction Policy
·     Headlines were less balanced than the actual content of articles. See.
·     Neutral articles were more likely to be headlined negative (41%) than positive (19%).See Section 4.6, Carbon Tax or Carbon Policy? Defining the debate
·     Readers relying on metropolitan newspapers living in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane received more coverage of carbon policy issues than readers in Perth, Adelaide and Darwin. See Section 4.2 Number of articles
·     The Australian gave far more space to the coverage of climate change than any other newspaper. Its articles were coded 47% negative, 44% neutral and 9% positive. When neutrals were discounted, there were 84% negative articles compared to 17% positive. See Section 4.5, Content of articles: Stance towards the 2011 Carbon Reduction Policy


These findings are based on an analysis of the first three sources quoted in all news and features.
·     11% of news and features quoted no source and 30% of the rest quoted only one source. The claims by many single sources about the likely impact of the carbon policy were not tested against the views of other sources. Only 42% of the rest of the articles included more than two sources. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Political sources were used more frequently than any other sources (54% of all sources), reflecting the intensity of the political debate. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Federal Labor sources were 28% of all first sources. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Business sources (23%) received greater representation overall than Coalition political sources (18%).See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Fossil fuel lobby and other big business sources opposed to the policy were very strongly represented, often without any critique or second source. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Clean energy and other businesses sources in favour of the tax received low coverage, particularly in News Ltd papers. They complained during the campaign that they were excluded and adopted specific strategies to address this with some success. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Although they played a key role in negotiations, The Australian Greens received low coverage (5% of all sources).See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Business sources (23%) receive more coverage than all Australian civil society sources together including unions, NGOS, think tanks, activists, members of the public, religious spokespeople, scientists and academics (17%).See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Business sources quoted 4 or more times over the 6-month period were quoted being negative towards the policy in almost 80% of occasions. Many Australian readers would have been left with the impression that the nearly the entire business community was opposed to the carbon price policy. In fact this was far from the truth. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Bluescope Steel was quoted 71 times, substantially more than any other business source. This was more than the number of times all NGOs and scientists combined were quoted. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Figure 17 also shows that peak councils such as the Business Council of Australia, Minerals Councils of Australia and Australian Coal Association achieved very strong representation. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted
·     Academics and scientists were also poorly represented. See Section 4.8, Sources quoted


·     Journalists or regular columnists wrote 75% of opinion pieces. See Section 4.10, Opinion
·     59% of that commentary was negative, 23% neutral and 18% positive. 
·     All newspapers carried some positive commentary. See Section 4.10, Opinion
·     The Herald Sun opinion writers were overwhelmingly negative (96%). The Courier Mail (89%), The Australian (85%), The Daily Telegraph (85%), The NT News (85%) and The West Australian (85%) were also very negative in their commentary. (When neutral figures were removed).See Section 4.10, Opinion
·     The Mercury was more balanced in its commentary than other News Ltd papers. See Section 4.10, Opinion
·     Andrew Bolt and Terry McCrann, who are sceptical towards the scientific consensus on anthropomorphic climate change, published more opinion pieces on the carbon pricing policy than any other commentators. See Section 4.10, Opinion
·     Together, opinion writers who are sceptical of the scientific consensus on climate change including McCrann, Bolt, Tim Blair, Miranda Devine, Piers Akerman and Christopher Pearson accounted for at least 21% of all words of commentary published by journalists and regular commentators in the ten newspapers over this period. Their columns are prominently featured online, often accompanied by highly negative cartoons and illustrations. See Section 4.10, Opinion
·     Opinion pieces in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were more evenly distributed between negative and positive than News Ltd opinion pieces. See Section 4.10, Opinion
·     The Age was the only paper to publish more positive commentary (59%) compared to negative (41%). See Section 4.10, Opinion
·     Fairfax newspapers did not publish any opinion articles by climate sceptics about climate policy, during this period. See Section 4.10, Opinion

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