Risk and the environment reporters: A four-region analysis

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Who are the environment reporters who explain the science of the environment to the general public? Do they consider risk when writing environmental stories? How often do they say they use a risk assessment angle compared to other issues? Are they concerned that they may be exaggerating environmental risks, excessively frightening their readers and viewers?

This study used a census approach to interview 354 environment reporters in four regions of the United States. The majority of environment reporters in all four regions said they used risk angles at least sometimes, many more than might have been true in the past. However, the journalists said they more frequently framed their stories using government, human-interest, business, nature, pollution, politics, science, and health angles, and some reporters, ranging from 28.3 percent in New England to 41.8 percent in the Pacific Northwest, said they rarely or never included risk assessment in their environmental stories. Although most journalists in the four regions did not believe that news reports generally sensationalized environmental risks, some reporters (16.9–25.0 percent) said that environmental journalists generally have overblown environmental risks, unduly alarming the public.


Copyright 2004 Sage Publications

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Publication Title

Public Understanding of Science

Published Citation

Sachsman, David B.; Simon, James & Valenti, JoAnn Myer (2004). "Risk and the environment reporters: A four-region analysis." Public Understanding of Science, 13(4), 399-416.