Local TV News Viewer Reactions to Weathercasters Reporting the Local Impacts of Climate Change


Most Americans misperceive climate change as distant risk; TV weathercasters can help correct this misperception by reporting on the current local impacts of climate change. Some weathercasters, however, are concerned that such reporting may alienate skeptical viewers. The goal of this study was to develop a better understanding of how viewers respond to climate change information delivered by weathercasters. Interviews were conducted with 30 local TV news viewers in Virginia with divergent views about climate change, categorized as engaged, disengaged, and unconvinced. During the interview, participants were shown two graphics and two videos about the local impacts of climate change. Most participants in all groups [21/30 (70%)] expressed interest in learning about climate change from weathercasters, particularly local and national impacts. Most participants in all three groups understood the key points and responded positively to both the graphics and the videos. Several unconvinced participants (6/10) were disinterested in seeing climate change information in the weather segment, but they were not opposed to it; they felt the weather segment was too short to adequately explain the information. These preliminary findings suggest that most of the local TV news viewers interviewed in this study—even those unconvinced that human-caused climate change is happening—respond positively to TV weathercasters as local climate educators. These findings are consistent with the reports of TV weathercasters who say that when they report on climate change, they receive far more positive than negative feedback from viewers.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

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Supplemental information related to this paper is available at: https://doi.org/10.1175/WCAS-D-18-0066.s1
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (Award DRL-1422431).




social science, climate change, broadcasting, communications/decision making, education, societal impacts

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Weather, Climate, and Society