Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Bella Mody

Second Advisor

Michael McDevitt

Third Advisor

Sandra Fish

Abstract

The goal of this project is to explore solutions to the increasingly difficult challenge of covering international environmental topics, such as coral reefs and climate change, during times of constrained budgets, shrinking environmental reporting, and disappearing foreign news bureaus. In this context of limited resources, this study explores whether the periodic bibliographic review of scholarly literature may offer a low-expense avenue for news organizations to sustain or even increase the breadth and depth of coverage of these important topics. This study compares coverage of coral reefs and climate change in scholarly journal articles (2007-2011) to those in the popular press (2007-2012) using the New York Times (NYTimes) as an exemplar of the latter. The extra year in the latter was to allow for a possible time lag in information moving from the scholarly literature to the popular press. Articles on coral reefs and climate change identified in the scholarly literature (239) revealed numerous possibilities for stories that were not covered in the 22 annotated articles on this topic that appeared in the NYTimes. Whereas the most frequently discussed topics in the scholarly literature were the relationship between herbivorous fish and coral health, sea surface temperatures (SST), coral bleaching, and the resilience, recovery, and acclimation processes of coral reef ecosystems, the NYTimes's articles focused on conservation, tourism, SST, and broad discussion of climate change and how it might affect coral reef ecosystems. Additionally, of the 22 NYTimes articles on coral reefs and climate change, only three (14%) included hyperlinks to scholarly articles and 12 (55%) included at least one scientific reference. Overall, this study demonstrates that during these times of declining resources for on-the-spot reporting, scholarly literature represents an affordable but currently underutilized means for news organizations to continue providing wide ranging and detailed coverage of international environmental issues.

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