Event-Driven Environmental News in the U.S. and Canada


This paper presents results from a content analytic study of U.S. and Canadian evening news programs on energy and environmental topics from 1999 to 2009. The analysis reveals the importance of coverage of weather and natural disasters in both countries — importance not just in terms of the volume of coverage, but in the role that coverage plays in driving discussion of broader, more thematic coverage of pollution and climate change. Indeed, causality tests reveal that coverage of climate change, pollution and related issues are strongly affected by — or, rather, dependent on — coverage of disasters and other weather events.

Stuart Soroka, McGill University

Stephen J. Farnsworth, University of Mary Washington

Lori Young, University of Pennsylvania

Andrea Lawlor, McGill University

Stephen J. Farnsworth
Professor of Political Science
University of Mary Washington