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More than a decade ago, ABC News pulled off an amazing feat: a 2007 special edition of “20/20” that called attention to the rapid deterioration of the global environment. Reporters were stationed on all seven continents. The news unit even managed to have the lights turned off on the Empire State Building and Times Square to symbolize the dire threat posed by the decline of the earth’s natural support systems. Anchor Diane Sawyer had to use a flashlight – on camera – to maneuver around the set.
Bill Weir, then an ABC News correspondent who provided a report for the special from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, thought it marked the start of a real focus by TV-news outlets on the challenges of climate change. He was wrong.
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“The recession and Obamacare came,” said Weir, who is now CNN’s chief climate correspondent. “We had the rug pulled out from under us, those of us who care about the topic.” Besides, he asks, “who wants to pop some corn and gather the kids around and watch a show about the end of the world?”
Several of the nation’s biggest TV outlets hope that in 2019, the answer is “More than there used to be.”
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Suddenly, TV news outlets that have found climate-change coverage difficult to emphasize for prolonged periods are warming up to more ambitious reporting. NBC News has launched a new “climate unit” that will present reports throughout this week, says Janelle Rodriguez, the NBC News senior vice president who will oversee it, and has plans to live-stream a two-day forum on the topic from Georgetown University. CBS News has been running “Eye on Earth” reports throughout its programs. CNN gained recent notice for an hours-long series of “town hall” interviews with Democratic candidates on the topic.
It’s easy to dismiss these efforts as something geared...
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