ABC News: #DoYourJob
Kimbery Godwin, President, ABC News
The climate emergency is here, but ABC News is hardly reporting like it. For years, the country's most-watched TV news outlet stayed mostly silent on climate change. And when it did break its silence, it ran lackluster, incomplete coverage that usually did not explain that climate change is primarily caused by burning coal, oil, and gas; teach viewers about all the human costs it's already wreaked; or link climate change to extreme weather events.
We were pleased to hear that ABC News recently created a dedicated climate unit and committed to tell a variety of climate stories this November to coincide with COP26. But it's nowhere near enough. ABC News needs to undo the ignorance and confusion sown from its past coverage (or lack thereof), and truly treat the climate crisis as the biggest national and global emergency of our times.
Just think: what if ABC News covered the climate crisis the same way the network covers other large-scale crises like COVID-19? We'd be seeing much more frequent, thorough, and informed coverage than we ever have on climate. It is the professional and moral obligation of ABC News to do its job and cover climate as the issue demands NOW.
To check out our campaign's full set of demands, check out the open letter below. Sign it to call on Kimberly Godwin, the president of ABC News, to right the wrongs of her network's past coverage, and emerge as a true climate leader!
Kimbery Godwin, President, ABC News
From: [Your Name]
President, ABC News
Dear Ms. Godwin:
This past summer, wildfires ravaged the western United States while floods besieged the East Coast. Meanwhile, scientists with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published their latest report, making it clear that humanity has very little time left to cut heat-trapping emissions and avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.
We know that you created a dedicated climate unit in Fall 2021 and told more climate stories that November to coincide with COP26. It was good to see the network start to recognize the horrors of the climate crisis after a long history of irresponsible silence and lackluster, incomplete coverage.
However, the climate crisis is the most pressing national and global emergency of our times. ABC News continues to fail to cover climate change with the same dedication and rigor given to other emergencies of this scale. While your Fall 2021 announcement represented a good first step, ABC News has much to do before undoing the ignorance and confusion caused by your past silence. This is especially the case since your levels of climate coverage dropped off significantly after November 2021 ended, and even during that month it was not always a top editorial priority.
It is your organization’s moral and professional responsibility to tell the full truth of this emergency. We call upon you to lead ABC News toward true climate leadership by taking the following steps:
ABC News must identify the climate crisis as its top editorial priority, reporting on its causes, impacts, and solutions as often as possible and giving such coverage top placement, both during broadcast segments and online.
ABC News must fully contextualize the cause of the climate crisis, naming the burning of coal, oil, and gas as its scientifically-undisputed primary driver when discussing climate change.
ABC News must regard the climate crisis as a matter of everyday importance to Americans, which means consistent, frequent, and robust reporting on the crisis and its impacts in this country—and not just while the bright lights of large, media-friendly events such as COP26 are on.
ABC News must ensure that the climate crisis is covered in stories from every beat, reporting on its connections to every aspect of our lives, from the economy, to public health, to transportation, to food production and security, and more.
ABC News must further connect the climate crisis to the fight for racial and social justice in the United States, reporting on how the crisis disproportionately harms poor communities and communities of color in this country.
ABC must update how it reports on extreme weather events, always naming climate change as the key driver of weather events such as record-breaking heat, drought, and wildfires, and explaining that tropical storms and hurricanes are getting stronger due to climate change when they cover such events.
ABC News must cut advertising ties with the fossil fuel industry immediately and stop platforming the companies destroying our future.
In an ever-decreasing window of opportunity to educate Americans on this crisis, your role cannot be understated. ABC News is the top-rated news network in the United States. ABC World News Tonight enjoys almost 10 million viewers each night, while Good Morning America is the top morning program with about three million viewers daily. As you know, while cable networks like Fox are vilified for their programming, your audience is much larger.
As the head of the country’s largest news network, you have a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate true leadership and bring science-based stories that advance climate justice to millions of households every day. We’re here to provide connections to climate scientists, experts, and resources as needed.
No one is immune to the impacts of climate change, and marginalized and vulnerable groups will suffer the most. This is why we call for immediate action from you, the rest of ABC News leadership, and your full organization to go beyond the first baby step that you have taken.
There’s still time (barely!) to limit climate pollution below levels that threaten our collective survival, but the doomsday clock is ticking. In our race against time, there is no room for error. We urge you to cover climate as the issue deserves - now.