How the media lost interest in Climategate

I’ve blogged before about how climategate’s final act, in which three separate investigations largely exonerated the scientists concerned and reaffirmed the climate science, was under-reported by the New Zealand media compared to the explosion of coverage at the start.

Well, TVNZ’s Media7 show hosted by Russell Brown set out to find out just how much of a tail-off in coverage there was between November when the story broke with the leaking of the CRU emails to July when the Muir Russell review reported its findings.

Data visualisation guru Keith Ng used Meltwater News statistics to track references in key mainstream media outlets to “Climategate” in the period during which the climategate scandal was being covered, and also the period of its aftermath when the three separate review panels reported back.

Source: Keith Ng
Source: Keith Ng

This isn’t a perfect measure and you’d expect some disparity between the initial coverage of the sensational news that thousands of emails detailing climate scientists off-the-record discussions had been leaked, and the mopping up of the affair in dry review papers.

But the difference is quite marked for the majority of the media. The New Zealand Herald, TVNZ and TV3 really went to town on climategate between November and February, but coverage tailed off majorly after the fact.

Interestingly, Stuff, the website for the Fairfax newspapers, did as much reporting on Climategate’s aftermath as it did climategate itself.

Both Stuff and Radio New Zealand did comparatively less coverage of climategate overall than the other media outlets.

The statistics back up what we experienced at the Science Media Centre – huge interest in the initial leak and reaction to it in New Zealand – this lastest through COP15 and into the new year when NIWA released its temperature data for 2009 and the last decade.

Then a major tail-off in interest in the media as the reviews came in – no one was interested in covering it and most of the stories represented by the red bars above are  in fact international stories about the climategate reviews. I was only able to find one column in the Meltwater results, an editorial in the Gisborne Herald, analysing Climategate in the light of the exoneration of the scientists. That’s despite the flurry of columns written on the original leak of the emails, many of which predicted them constituting the “nail in the coffin” for the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

Here’s the Media7 show ‘Bridging the Gap’ where the data is discussed…

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