Journalistic values Balance Environmental journalism Controversy Science communication Climate change
Fecha de publicación:
León, B., & Erviti, M. C. (2011). Portrayal of scientific controversy on climate change. A study of the coverage of the Copenhagen summit in the Spanish press. Observatorio (OBS*), 5(3).
Controversy has been a relevant element in the coverage of climate change. Several studies emphasize
the influence of economic, political, and journalistic factors in the portrayal of controversies on this topic,
along the last few decades. Very often this was related to the lobbying action of several political and
economic interest groups and resulted in the portrayal of a distorted image of the scientific knowledge on
this topic. This paper presents some results of a research project on information about climate change in
the Spanish media (*). It analyzes the role of controversy in the current situation of strong scientific
consensus on the existence and origin of climate change, through some content analysis of the coverage
of the Copenhagen summit on climate change, in December 2009, in the two leading Spanish
newspapers (El País and El Mundo). Results indicate that controversy still plays a relevant role in the
coverage of this topic, and it is related to the editorial line of each newspaper. When controversy
receives ample attention, it is portrayed mainly by means of opinion articles and it is linked to a
restrictive presence of the scientific point of view. Balance is used as a legitimization tool, when it is
useful to support the editorial line.