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This is how (un)important climate change is to German publishers

Climate change is the greatest threat to the freedom, prosperity and survival of humankind. Therefore, the topic should play a major role in the media. But are major German online publishers living up to their responsibility? And how big of a role does climate change play in their reporting?

From the beginning of January 2021 up until the end of March 2022, we examined six publishers who in total published 7895 articles that dealt directly with the topic of climate change. This corresponds to an average of 18 articles per day and seems like a lot at first glance. However, if we look at the total number of new articles per day (approx. 1100), 18 articles correspond to a share of just 1.63%.

The positioning of articles on the news pages plays an important role. Articles that are placed far down usually receive less attention. The share of articles related to climate change in the top 10 positions on the news pages studied is 2.96% on average. Climate change thus plays a proportionally greater role in the top positions of the news pages and is thus perceived by more readers.

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The top article, the lead, is considered the most important position. This is where the most important articles are published and where most readers are reached. Unfortunately, the share of articles related to climate change is slightly lower than in the rest of the top 10 articles. The average share of the lead story is 2.77%. However, the range between the news sites is also significantly larger for the lead story. At Zeit Online, for example, the share is 4.62% and at both the FAZ and Spiegel the share is comparatively high at around 3.5%. However, the overall share is extremely low. For comparison: The Corona pandemic was the subject in 27% of the lead stories!

Coverage during the year

It is encouraging that the coverage is steadily increasing. In the first three months of 2021, there was an average of 9 articles per day. In the same period one year later, there were 14 articles on average among the publishers analyzed. There were in particular many new articles and lead stories on the 2021 climate conference in Glasgow. The climate conference started on 31.10.2021 and the coverage of climate change increased significantly.

Overall, the coverage of climate change is rather low. Especially compared to other topics, such as the Corona pandemic, climate plays a subordinate role among the publishers. However, it is encouraging that some publishers would like to focus more on the topic in the future and have set up their own departments to report on climate change. The first successes from this can already be seen at the beginning of 2022. The combination of data and climate journalism is also bearing fruit. The dashboards at Spiegel, Zeit online and Süddeutsche Zeitung are going in the right direction and are making readers aware of the problem. We will continue to follow the reporting and are curious about further developments.

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From January 2021 to the end of March 2022, we registered a total of around 480,000 articles on six news sites we analyzed. The six sites analyzed are as a public service publisher with national significance and BR24, a successful regional news service of the public service publishing. is there as a representative of the boulevard. In addition, there are, and, which were selected because of their social-liberal and conservative reputation respectively and have national relevance. In the teaser texts and headlines of the registered articles, we then filtered for keywords such as climate change and Fridays for Future. This forms the data basis for this report.

About this article

Written by Stefan Paulus

Published at: 7/18/2022, 9:00:00 AM

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