When Malcolm Jones and I taught first year students in Resource Management at the University of New England early in the 1990s, we set a major project based on an analysis of media coverage of environmental issues. I particularly remember a report on water pollution on Sydney's beaches. Using column inches, size of headlines, location in the newspapers, and frequency of reporting, the report showed with considerable statistical certainty that Sydney?s ocean waters were pristine prior to the start of the swimming season (no or few reports in the papers), became increasingly polluted as summer progressed (more column inches, bigger headlines), reached its highest levels at the height of summer (front page coverage) and then returned to purity as the summer waned and people returned to work and school (no or few reports in the papers). Total nonsense of course. In those days, before the deep water outfalls, beach pollution was a year round problem for Sydney, but the media reported the pollution only in summer when the maximum number of people were likely to be at the beaches and therefore interested in beach conditions and more likely to buy papers highlighting water quality issues. The media report events, whether they are politics, conflict, carnage, sex or the environment, which sell newspapers or attract viewers and listeners to television and radio. Our term project at UNE was designed not only as an exercise in data gathering, analysis and reporting, but was part of our programme of producing media savvy graduates
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