Stations in Three Virginia TV Markets to Try Expanding Climate Coverage

Working with a George Mason University/Climate Central collaboration involving NOAA and NASA partners, new initiative seeks to measure public responses to meteorologists’ increased coverage of climate/weather.

A number of meteorologists in three Virginia television markets say they will try to increase on- and off-air communications about climate change in their communities as part of a George Mason University-sponsored effort aimed in part at measuring impacts on public understanding of climate change science.

In TV markets in Northern Virginia, in the capital city of Richmond, and in Roanoke-Lynchburg, George Mason has surveyed public attitudes toward climate change. Researchers at the northern Virginia college plan to do so again down the road to try to discern whether the TV stations’ increased efforts have, in effect, moved the needle on public understanding in those markets.

The initiative comes after a similar year-long effort by WLTV-TV Chief Meteorologist Jim Gandy in Columbia, S.C. Gandy’s “Climate Matters” project, having now won compliments from a broadcasting trade publication and from Columbia Journalism Review, was done in collaboration with George Mason and with program partner Climate Central, a Princeton, N.J.-based nonprofit climate science/reporting organization. Along with climate and communications resources from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, Climate Central again is to provide timely resources to help the station meteorologists better communicate on climate change and help their audiences better visualize climate change issues. (The Yale Project on Climate Change & The Media editor is also a part of the George Mason project in Virginia.)

George Mason Center for Climate Change Communications Director Ed Maibach and his project partners convened an October 17 kick-off meeting of the new one-year effort March 16 and 17 at Mason’s Fairfax County campus, with meteorology representatives of a number of the stations in the three Virginia markets. Gandy and WLTX News Director Marybeth Jacoby described their station’s experiences with the “Climate Matters” initiative and explained to the Virginia station representatives why they think the effort was worthwhile and successful.

The next step in the program, underwritten in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation and by additional private donations, will involve the partner organizations’ providing weekly materials to the participating broadcasters for their use on- and off-air, for instance on blogs, websites and social marketing media TV mets appear to be increasingly turning to. Additional information about the program is to be made available over time at Mason’s “4C” website.

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