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National print media vs. agricultural trade publications: communicating the 2012 Midwestern US drought

Abstract

The 2012 Midwestern US drought resulted in major impacts to farmers and the public. Extreme events like drought will continue in the future due to climate change. We studied how the elite national press—New York Times (NYT) and Wall Street Journal (WSJ)—covered the 2012 Midwestern drought, how climate change was addressed, and how NYT and WSJ articles differed from each other and agricultural trade publication (ATP) article coverage before, during, and after the drought. A previous study found that ATP articles emphasized short-term drought recovery efforts. We suggest this emphasis was exacerbated by how drought and climate change were reported in the national media. Few articles discussed climate change in all publication types. Most articles that did cover climate change did not attribute a cause; however, over half of NYT articles mentioned human-caused climate change. WSJ and ATP articles had more content similarities than NYT articles. Overall, climate change discussions in all publication types were related to personal impacts. Climate change reporting in the WSJ and NYT was broad. ATP climate change reporting related to weather conditions in relation to farm resilience. Focusing on impacts and recovery may have attenuated risk perceptions. We contend that communication should recognize human-caused climate change and increased likelihood of weather extremes.

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Acknowledgments

Thank you to Jackie M. Getson, Purdue University, for her advice and critique of this manuscript. Thanks also go to Bree Drda, an undergraduate researcher the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for excellent quality control and article downloading. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their support of this manuscript and helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Sarah P. Church.

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Church, S.P., Bentlage, B., Weiner, R. et al. National print media vs. agricultural trade publications: communicating the 2012 Midwestern US drought. Climatic Change 161, 43–63 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02630-3

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Keywords

  • The 2012 Midwestern US drought
  • New York Times
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Agricultural trade publications
  • Climate change communication
  • Social amplification of risk