Nuclear Coverage: The New York Times' Matthew Wald (on screen), and ABC's Ned Potter (center seated) discuss "In the Shadow of the Japan Crisis." Also pictured (left to right): Belfer Center's Matthew Bunn and Cristine Russell.
"Seminars Assess Media's Impact on Clean Energy Views"
Author: Joseph Leahy
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Environment and Natural Resources
Informing the public with critical and strong reportage about energy is imperative for crafting policy, but with shrinking newsroom budgets, is the news media up to the task? This spring, the Belfer and Shorenstein Centers’ three-part seminar series “Clean Energy and the Media” tackled this question with prominent science and technology reporters from across the media. Organized by Cristine Russell, senior fellow with the Belfer Center’s Environment and Natural Resources Program (ENRP), the series examined current media coverage of wind power, electric cars and nuclear power.
Boston Globe journalist Beth Daley joined Elisabeth Rosenthal, environment writer for the New York Times, and ENRP director Henry Lee, in discussing “Wind Energy: Which Way Does the Media Wind Blow?” "The problem with these renewable energy and larger environment stories,” said Rosenthal, “is there are all these different lenses and newspapers tend to be Balkanized. There's the business perspective; there's the science perspective; there's the foreign perspective and the metro perspective.” Shorenstein director Alex Jones moderated the panel.
“The Long Road to Electric Cars: Green Hope or Media Hype?” was discussed by Alan Boyle, science editor for MSNBC.com, Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine senior writer, and Venky Narayanamurti, director of Belfer’s Science, Technology and Public Policy Program, with moderator Lee. Reporting about the possibilities of new technologies can be especially problematic, said Walsh, describing the “pitchroom bias” journalists confront when it comes to clean-tech reporting. “When you’re a writer and you’re facing a skeptical editor, and when you’re trying to pitch the story, you may unconsciously hype it,” he said.
In the concluding seminar on the coverage of Japan’s nuclear crisis, Matthew Bunn, co-director of the Center’s Project on Managing the Atom, joined New York Times’ Matthew L. Wald, and ABC’s Ned Potter in a discussion of the challenges of covering nuclear energy. Russell, the moderator, pointed out the irony of nuclear power as a green energy. “Because nuclear power does not release greenhouse gases, it has been seen as clean in terms of the climate. At the moment it’s an ironic term, because it doesn’t sound so clean in terms of radiation release. So it’s clean relative to what?” she said.
Belfer Center International Global Affairs student fellow Carolyn McGourty assisted in organizing the series.
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
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