CNN’s climate reporting figures in this time frame are down from the weeklong period in June, when the network mentioned climate change in 19 of 88 segments and weather reports on extreme weather.
Media Matters also reviewed Fox News’ reporting on the Washburn Fire, but the network did not run any segments on the fire.
TV networks must center climate change as a key part of their extreme weather reporting
In the examples above, climate change was mentioned at least twice in the segment. In the CBS and MSNBC examples, the term was introduced by the host in the segment and then brought up again by the reporter. This also happened in several other MSNBC examples reviewed during this time frame.
In the CNN example, climate change was the focal point of the segment. René Marsh talked about climate’s impact on the Washburn Fire before leading into a segment on how climate change is influencing extreme weather events more broadly at national parks. It’s an excellent example of how networks should be reporting on climate-fueled extreme weather. As emissions continue to rise, climate change will worsen, and so will the intensity of certain extreme weather events. In reports on these events, climate change shouldn’t just be mentioned in passing — it should be the focus of the segment. Let’s hope these networks build off these above examples and provide more context for their viewers going forward.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ Mornings, Evening News, and Face the Nation; NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press; and all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for any of the terms “wildfire,” “fire,” “blaze,” or “burn” within close proximity to the words “Washburn,” “Yosemite,” “Sequoia,” “California,” “West,” or “Mariposa” from July 9, 2022, through July 11, 2022.
We counted segments, which we defined as instances when the wildfire was the stated topic of discussion or when we found “significant discussion” of the wildfire. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the wildfire with one another. Also included as segments were weather reports, which we defined as instances when the wildfire was the stated topic of discussion by a meteorologist in front of a green screen.
We did not include passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker mentioned the wildfire, or teasers, which we defined as instances when the host or anchor promoted a segment about the wildfire coming up later in the broadcast.
We then reviewed each segment for mentions of the terms “climate” or “global warming.”