Chopped liver



(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

So, how newsworthy is the subject of climate change? Headline news? Fifth paragraph down? Somewhere in the backpage hinterlands with the horoscopes and the ever-waning classified ads?

Questions like this haunt Auntie Ruth—if not in her sleep, in her waking moments as a columnist. Really: It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Auntie doesn’t feel fine. But isn’t anybody else out there freakin’ the frack out?

Of course you are. There, there.

Enter climate change 2011 as a search of The Sacramento Bee’s website and you get 69 results. Enter the same in SN&R’s website (which is an amalgamation of our three newspapers: Sacramento, Reno and Chico) and you get 5,040 results.

Modestly, Auntie Ruth refrains from comment.

Take it up past the regional level to where the air is thin and the altitude dizzying: Think Progress reports that Robert Brulle, a prof at Drexel University in Philadelphia, surveyed the climate-change coverage over the past 15 years by NBC, ABC and the CBS nightly newscasts.

In 2011, there were 14 climate-change stories for a total of 32 minutes of coverage. In 2010? Thirty-two stories for 90 minutes of coverage; way, way down from the pinnacle of 2007, with 147 stories and 386 minutes of coverage. Only 2003 was worse than 2011.

Ouch. Every day the story gets more urgent. Shouldn’t the coverage be climbing in response?

Think Progress attributes this to “a failure of the political elite to focus on the issue,” the impact of other “macro” factors (unemployment, the economy), and the lack of big political “events” that can churn news.

Indeed, with the Keystone XL Pipeline commanding some headlines—as the arrests grew and the national politics got stranger—the focus was on jobs and the immediate environmental impacts. Not the questionable logic of pulling the wrong oil from the wrong place for the wrong reasons, all to the ultimate detriment of the planet’s climate.

As you peruse your top websites for the most intriguing news, and check Facebook for the most liked/linked stories, and scan the Twitterdeck for LOLs and, it is hoped, read a newspaper once in a while, let us wonder out loud: With all this information bubbling up from the ground, what makes climate change the journalistic equivalent of chopped liver? How did we get here, and how do we get out?