New Zealand’s media and the crisis in the ocean: news norms and scientific urgency

1. To date, no studies have analysed New Zealand’s media coverage of ocean-related threats, potential harms, or sources used for their coverage. This is concerning given that marine media coverage is linked to public support, awareness of conservation issues, and policymaking.

2. This research helps fill this gap, examining all ocean-related articles 2 weeks before and after the 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report’s release on the oceans and cryosphere.

3. It first analyses the media’s reporting of threats, potential harms arising from the threats, and the sources on whom journalists relied and gave voice, then it tests a report of global significance for influence on reportage.

4. Second, it examines whether the threats covered by media align with scientists’ main concerns (from the IPCC report and a survey of New Zealand scientists).

5. In contrast to previous studies on media sources for environmental conservation, this study found that journalists in New Zealand relied considerably on scientists as key sources. However, it found that coverage of ocean-related threats did not match scientists’ main concerns.

6. Finally, the research found that the IPCC report appeared to influence coverage in two areas: reporting on threats to island nations, and multiple potential harms. Otherwise, New Zealand’s media covered the IPCC report as any other news item, reporting on it and then shifting to other matters.

7. The lack of coverage on primary scientific concerns and that a globally significant momentous report did not dramatically impact the marine media landscape is problematic for conservation of ocean habitats, species, and broader environmental and societal outcomes owing to poor understandings by policymakers and the public, which can lead to inaction and policy failures.

8. The potential reasons and solutions to advance communication of marine conservation issues for a more educated and mobilized public are explored.

Armoudian M., Stevens G., Stephenson F. & Ellis J., in press. New Zealand’s media and the crisis in the ocean: news norms and scientific urgency. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. Article.

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