Balance as Bias, Resolute on the Retreat? Updates & Analyses of Newspaper Coverage in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Canada Over the past 15 Years

Authors: Meaghan Daly*, University of New England, Andrew Benham, University of Colorado, Maxwell Boykoff, University of Colorado, Patrick Chandler, University of Colorado, Lucy McAllister, Technical University of Munich, Marisa McNatt, University of Colorado
Topics: Communication, Global Change
Keywords: climate change, media, science communication
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 44
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over a decade ago, Boykoff & Boykoff (2004) demonstrated that the journalistic norm of balanced reporting paradoxically resulted in biased coverage of human contributions to climate change and actions to address the problem in the United States (U.S.) context. The phenomenon of ‘balance as bias’ has contributed to divergences between scientific and popular understandings about the causes of and solutions to climate change (Cook et al. 2013). More recently, shorter-term studies have shown that the problem of false balance has decreased in the U.S. mainstream press (e.g. Boykoff 2007), but this trend has also varied over time (Nisbet 2011) and may have been replaced by more subtle resistance to climate policy (Schmid-Petri et al. 2015). There has not, however, been a re-evaluation of broader trends in how reporting of climate change in the media has shifted over a longer time frame and across multiple countries. Here, we present ongoing research of our ‘Balance as Bias 2.0’ project, which systematically examines (through content analysis) newspaper coverage across 25 newspapers in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S. to assess how climate change was covered in the mainstream press from January 2005 to August 2019. This comprehensive view can further inform our understanding of the persistence (or decline) of biased coverage of climate change and implications for media reporting on climate change in the future.

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