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A National Narrative for Media on Climate Change

By Kip Hansen | Watts Up With That? | June 22, 2019

Those of you who closely watch the media — newspapers, broadcast & streaming  news, national magazines, national public radio — may have noticed that all the news about climate change is beginning to sound the same — regardless of outlet (there are a few sensible exceptions). This is no accident. In fact, it is an organized movement among American journalists.

I have written here before about the Editorial Narratives at the New York Times. Here’s the working definition I proposed for Editorial Narrative:

“Editorial Narrative: A mandated set of guidelines for the overriding storyline for any news item concerning a specified topic, including required statements, conclusions and intentional slanting towards a particular preferred viewpoint. A statement from the Editors of “How this topic is to be presented.”

In that essay, I quoted  Michael Cieply when, in November 2016, he told the world about the NY Times’ Editorial Narratives:

“It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse [of that at the LA Times]. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”

I don’t know how many readers took this bit of news seriously or how many readers realized the implications of the exposé. Personally, I was not surprised, as I had long suspected it. But the implications of this are quite disturbing. It means, in layman’s terms, that the news that you read has been pre-determined by the Editors and has little to do with actual events (real news) that happen in the real world. Those of you who have recently read Orwell’s 1984  will recognize some of the features of the Ministry of Truth (writ small at the NY Times’ “Page One meeting”). At the NY Times, the profession of journalism has been turned to the task of pushing the narratives of editors down the throats of the people. Newspeak is rampant.

While I found Cieply’s revelations unsettling, I find the following story truly frightening in its ability to threaten the very underpinnings of democracy.

The story starts earlier in the year with a conference planned and held at the behest of Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation (“along with partners such as The Guardian”). You can watch the conference online (YouTube). The outcome of that conference is a growing cabal of journalists and their editors: (in their own words):

How does the media cover—or not cover—the biggest story of our time? Last fall, UN climate scientists announced that the world has 12 years to transform energy, agriculture, and other key industries if civilization is to avoid a catastrophe. We believe the news business must also transform.”

“The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation assembled some of the world’s top journalists, scientists, and climate experts to devise a new playbook for journalism that’s compatible with the 1.5-degree future that scientists say must be achieved. We also held a town hall meeting on the coverage of climate change and the launch of an unprecedented, coordinated effort to change the media conversation.”


 Journalists around the world are being contacted by email by CJR with a message that includes this appeal:

“Our ask of you  is simple: commit to a week of focused climate coverage this September. We are organizing news outlets across the US and abroad—online and print, TV and audio, large and small—to run seven days of climate stories from September 16 through the climate summit UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hosts in New York September 23. The stories you run are up to you, though we can offer ideas and background information and connect outlets looking for content with content providers looking for outlets.

We’d be happy to schedule a phone call to discuss this further.


Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

What is their playbook? What’s the narrative they expect journalists to stick to?

It starts with this: “Transforming the media’s coverage of the climate crisis” and morphs into a “FAQ” titled “The media are complacent while the world burns” with these ideas and suggestions like these:

1.  Climate is a crisis.

2.  The Green New Deal is “a plan to mobilize the United States to stave off climate disaster and, in the process, create millions of green jobs.” and the GND has massive public support. [ NB: see Postscript at the end of this column. ]

3.  Climate is the “biggest story of our time”.

4.  Journalists should push the “… warning that humanity has a mere 12 years to radically slash greenhouse-gas emissions or face a calamitous future in which hundreds of millions of people worldwide would go hungry or homeless or worse.” and that “our civilization today faces the prospect of extinction”.

If this all sounds like a Climate Pragmatists Worst Nightmare, then you are starting to understand correctly. The CJR/Nation/Guardian cabal is working on a “handbook” to help news organizations “get the story right”. In other words, they are writing the Climate Journalism Narrative –  a point for point list of what every climate story should say and how it should say it  (and, remember folks, ”every story is a climate story”). They call on journalists to “Learn the science” suggesting that  instead of actually reading anything  containing the science of the climate, such as the real science sections of the IPCC AR5 report,  they recommend that journalists read “Four recent books—McKibben’s Falter, Naomi Klein’s On Fire, David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth, and Jeff Goodell’s The Water Will Come—are good places to start.” — all of which are extreme climate alarmist propaganda.

Covering Climate Now movement is organizing:

A focused week of coverage

We’ll work to organize as much of the news media as possible—large and small, national and local—to commit to one week of focused coverage of climate change this September. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, is convening a summit in New York on September 23, where nations are urged to show how they will limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We propose a week of concentrated climate coverage in the lead-up to the UN summit, beginning September 16.” [source]

Don’t be fooled, they are not planning any real journalistic attempts to explain the complexity of the wicked problem called Earth’s Climate and the current controversies surrounding the issues involved. They are planning an intensive propaganda campaign across as many media outlets as they can convince (or shame) into signing on to participate.

I have laid out my position on the Climate Question here at WUWT ( here and here ). I encourage climate realists, especially those with a broader reach into mainstream media, to begin now to plan for their own counter-campaign to help neutralize the propaganda blitz envisioned by CJR/The Nation/The Guardian cabal for September 2019. We too are journalists, even if in just a small way. I for one will be following the Covering Climate Now propaganda campaign and will update the readership here with details from their promised propaganda ”handbook”.

The science is very plain on such issues as US wildfires, hurricanes (US and worldwide), US flooding, so-called heat waves and weather extremes. Opinion columns and essays in national newspapers and magazines (both print and online) and video commentary for broadcast and streamed news stations, laying out the simple truth, with graphs, numbers, and images, can and will help cut the ground from under the alarmist propaganda effort.

If we, the readers and contributors here, don’t make the effort to counteract this planned act of ideological sabotage of the American mind, who will?

# # # # #

POSTSCRIPT:  One of the propaganda points that will be pushed by the Climate Journalists Cabal is: “Not only do most Americans care about climate change, but an overwhelming majority support a Green New Deal—81 percent of registered voters said so as of last December, according to Yale climate pollsters. Trump and Fox don’t like the Green New Deal? Fine. But journalists should report that the rest of America does.”

This is an example of how warped the journalism being promoted by the Covering Climate Now group is. It is true that a poll by “Yale climate pollsters” (in reality the activist department Yale Program on Climate Change Communication) found, in December 2018: “The survey results show overwhelming support for the Green New Deal, with 81% of registered voters saying they either “strongly support” (40%) or “somewhat support” (41%) this plan.”  There’s the 81%.

What a great quotable quote!

The reality is a bit different. The pollsters asked this question:

“Some members of Congress are proposing a “Green New Deal” for the U.S. They say that a Green New Deal will produce jobs and strengthen America’s economy by accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. The Deal would generate 100% of the nation’s electricity from clean, renewable sources within the next 10 years; upgrade the nation’s energy grid, buildings, and transportation infrastructure; increase energy efficiency; invest in green technology research and development; and provide training for jobs in the new green economy. How much do you support or oppose this idea?”

And got this result:

Now that looks pretty definitive, doesn’t it? But here’s the real deal…. the poll is taken in the first weeks of December 2018. The Green New Deal (in its current form) was announced the week following the November 2018 mid-term elections. So, less than 3 weeks after it is announced, put up on the web, taken down again, put up again (you remember the story), the climate advocacy group at Yale does a poll, preceded by a glowing recommendation of the GND, and then asks “How much to you support or oppose this idea?”

So, our Climate Journalist Cabal is not misrepresenting the poll… they are just misrepresenting the whole concept of public support for the GND.

The same poll also asked:

“How much, if anything, have you heard about a policy being proposed by some members of Congress called the Green New Deal?”

The resounding answer?

“Nothing at all”

The same poll, the same cohort (same people polled), a greater percentage than those purportedly “supporting” it had heard “nothing at all” about the GND.

For those that interpret polls, this means, bluntly, that the “supporters” were responding solely to the pollsters “introduction” about the GND — they really didn’t know anything at all about it.

What does the public really think about the seriousness of climate issues? The Pew poll of January 2019:

The Climate Journalist Cabal has already stated that it plans to use this near-total misrepresentation as part of its propaganda campaign. What they will do with other topics is not hard to imagine.

June 22, 2019 - Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science |

1 Comment »

  1. Masterful manipulation of numbers by the legacy media. 81% of voters support the GND? Just like 97% of scientists agree with anthropogenic climate change, huh?


    Comment by Aaron | June 23, 2019 | Reply

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