Here is a good example of how media outlets play a large role in the way that a particular story is covered (and therefore understood) by the broader public (Chapter 8; Issues: Media, p506). On the day after the press conference by NASA and the National Atmospheric Administration at which data was released reporting 2014 as the warmest year on record, The New York Times covered the story as the lead on its front page with the headline "2014 breaks heat record, challenging global warming skeptics." The lead paragraph was:
"Last year was the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped."
In other words, the story was presented as an empirical fact that had been unearthed by "scientists." In contrast, The Wall Street Journal buried the story at the bottom of page 6 with the heading "Groups say '14 was World's warmest." The lead paragraph in that story was:
"The year 2014 was the world's warmest on record, despite relatively cool temperatures across parts of North America, two U.S. agencies responsible for monitoring global climate trends said."
In other words, this was an opinion that was offered by "two U.S. agencies," with all the implications of government bureaucracy and inefficiency that, no doubt, riles your typical WSJ reader. A good journalist knows which buttons to push. As such, the article goes on to note that, by these groups' "reckoning" (implying a hunch that was generated on a whim), many of the all-time hottest years have occurred this century, but follow that up with the note that:
"Many scientists attribute the warming temperatures to rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, soot and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and to land-use changes. Some skeptics, however, have suggested the rise in global temperatures has actually slowed since 1998, which was itself a record-warm year."
I do not claim the NYT is unbiased, while the WSJ is biased. Clearly, both outlets are biased in their own ways. The lesson I take from this is that it is important to get my news from multiple outlets. As long as you know the bias of each source (and every news source is biased to some degree), then you have some chance of finding out what is actually going on.
David Chandler & Bill Werther
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders, Globalization, and Sustainable Value Creation (3e)
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://www.sagepub.com/chandler3e/
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: http://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics
By Justin Gillis
January 17, 2015
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
Groups Say '14 Was World's Warmest
By Robert Lee Hotz
January 17-18, 2015
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final