If you get your news from CNN, you probably haven't heard that a major Antarctic ice sheet is melting and could raise sea levels worldwide, or that top international scientists now project that climate change will dramatically increase global hunger -- because CNN U.S. didn't report the first story when it broke and spent just 2 minutes covering the second.
On May 19, president Jeff Zucker said that CNN hasn't "figured out how to engage the audience in [news about climate change] in a meaningful way. When we do do those stories, there does tend to be a tremendous amount of lack of interest on the audience's part."
CNN is a business, and its ratings matter, but it's also a news organization. And when a news organization ignores a pressing public issue because there are easier stories to tell, it disrespects its platform and fails the public it exists to inform.
Research shows that Americans are more concerned than ever about climate change, but historically, CNN has presented stories about it as debates that cast doubt on settled science. It's likely that CNN's engagement problem has more to do with how it frames news about climate change than a lack of interest from its audience, which makes the choice to drop coverage even more concerning.
When Zucker took the top job at CNN, he told reporters that "it's important [CNN] stay true to standards of great journalism" during its pursuit of "more passion and more fans."
It's time for CNN to revisit that commitment to journalism. Tell Mr. Zucker that when there's news about climate change, his network needs to report it.
Dear Mr. Zucker:
In recent months, CNN has come under fire for ignoring news about climate change, which you attributed to a "tremendous lack of interest" from your audience.
Whether your ratings reflect boredom, or -- more likely -- that viewers are tired of CNN presenting climate change stories as debates about settled science, this decision might boost your numbers in the short term, but it's hurting your brand.
CNN made its name as the go-to network for breaking news. While some stories -- like your coverage of missing Malaysian flight MH370 -- guarantee easy buzz, when you let them crowd out others, you fail your viewers.
As journalists, your first job is to report the news. If CNN really values its platform, it needs to cover stories about climate change.