Anyone who still holds to the old-fashioned idea that journalists should seek to inform their readers by being inquiring and independent (as well as a pain in the butt at times) will likely weep a little to read the recent thoughts of American journalism professor Renita Coleman. She recommends engaging with ‘climate sceptics’ by cutting out references to ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’, and replacing them with ‘weather’. By these means, she suggests sceptics will seek out news about climate change, and they would be likely to “take steps to help mitigate its damage”.
The idea, of course, is idiotic. It is impossible to write a coherent story about the climate changing over a period, along with temperatures rising or falling, by confusing such trends with one-off weather events. But confusion seems to reign supreme in the academic world inhabited by Professor Coleman. “We need to think a little more nuanced, if you will, about what kinds of things we are doing to make people think we are trying to persuade them when we know we are not,” she adds. Can I leave this with readers to work out what she is saying – it beats me.
As does a sentence in her paper’s abstract that runs: “An experiment shows this frame works by reducing persuasion knowledge and increasing perceived behavioural control, resulting in science sceptics being significantly more likely to intend to take action, engage with the news, and agree with the story’s perspective.”