Campus News

Environmental journalism combats scientific illiteracy

Sixty-three percent of people think that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs, according to a survey done by Northern Illinois University.

Combating scientific illiteracy and correcting misconceptions like this one is just one of the reasons why the public needs environmental journalism in the media, according to Jim Detjen, director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University,.

Detjen spoke here last month about the role of science in the media and how science and media can work together to inform the public.

“It’s important for information about the environment to be in the news media because most of what the public knows about the environment comes from the news media’s reports,” Detjen said.

He also said that environmental journalism increases in times of environmental calamities such as the Chernobyl nuclear incident in 1986 or the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, when television coverage of the environment peaked.

Since that time, environmental coverage-particularly in broadcast-has declined.

“If there is a lack of coverage, people and government will not be informed and will not take actions that help improve the quality of the environment,” Detjen said. “For example, if people don’t know that their actions are contributing to global warming and climate change, they won’t take actions to change these actions and global warming will continue to increase and cause serious impacts on the world’s environment.”