Population and Environment

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 339–372

How and why journalists avoid the population-environment connection

  • T. Michael Maher

DOI: 10.1007/BF02208512

Cite this article as:
Maher, T.M. Popul Environ (1997) 18: 339. doi:10.1007/BF02208512


Recent surveys show that Americans are less concerned about population than they were 25 years ago, and they are not connecting environmental degradation to population growth. News coverage is a significant variable affecting public opinion, and how reporters frame a problem frequently signals what is causing the problem. Using a random sample of 150 stories about urban sprawl, endangered species and water shortages, Part I of this study shows that only about one story in 10 framed population growth as a source of the problem. Further, only one story in the entire sample mentioned population stability among the realm of possible solutions. Part II presents the results of interviews with 25 journalists whose stories on local environmental problems omitted the causal role of population growth. It shows that journalists are aware of the controversial nature of the population issue, and prefer to avoid it if possible. Most interviewees said that a national phenomenon like population growth was beyond the scope of what they could write as local reporters.

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Michael Maher
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of CommunicationUniversity of Southwestern LouisianaLafayette

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