• Academic publication

New Zealands media and the crisis in the ocean: News norms and scientific urgency

Armoudian M, Stevens G, Stephenson F & Ellis J (May 2023)

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Ocean ecosystems are under threat from multiple anthropogenic pressures including climate change and ocean acidification. Given these threats alongside Aotearoa New Zealand’s vast ocean territory and economic reliance on the ocean, this research explored the reported primary threats, potential harms arising from the threats, and the sources to whom journalists gave voice. It then compared the coverage of top threats to those in the IPCC’s 2019 report on the oceans to a survey of New Zealand scientists, examining all ocean-related articles two weeks before and after the IPCC report’s release to test if a report of global urgency might influence reporting. Coverage of ocean-related threats did not match scientists’ primary concerns. The IPCC report did appear to influence coverage in two areas, firstly reporting threats to island nations and secondly multiple potential harms. However aside from this, New Zealand’s media covered the IPCC report as any news item, reporting on it briefly and then shifting to other newly arising matters.

Despite the significance of the report and scientific consensus, New Zealand’s traditional media did not shift routine practices of news coverage to reflect urgency. We analyze the potential reasons for this and suggest ways to advance communication of scientific concerns.