Environment in Daily Press: 60 Stories in One Month

Throughout last May, the printed press published a total of 60 stories on environmental affairs, averaging two stories per day. Divided by four dailies, this equals less than 0.5 per newspaper per day, according to the results of monitoring conducted by the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED).

The results showed that press coverage of environmental affairs is very modest, especially since the content analysis revealed that the newspapers relied on press releases by 51.7% out of the total stories published by the four dailies. There were 31 press releases during May: 29.2% in Al Dustour, 35.4% in Al Ghad, 19.3% in Al Rai, and 16.1% in Al Sabeel. Press interviews were 0%. Also, investigative journalism received 0% in the study sample.

According to the results reached by AKEED, Al Dustour daily ranked first in terms of covering environmental issues. It published 19 press items by 31.7%, including 18 items that had a local theme, by 30%, while there was one item that had an international theme, by 1.6%. Al Sabeel ranked last. It published 8 press items only, by 13.3%, including 7 items that had a local theme, by 12.9%, and one item that had an international theme, by 16.7%. Al Ghad and Al Rai ranked second and third consecutively, as shown by Table No (1) below:

Table No. 1: Type and Percentage of Coverage of Environmental News in Daily Newspapers

 OutletTotal%Type and Percentage of of Coverage
Local Item%International Item%
1Al Dustour1931.71833.3116.7
2Al Ghad1728.31629.7116.7
3Al Rai1626.71324.1350
4Al Sabeel813.3712.9116.7

Concerning the pattern of coverage of environmental affairs in the printed press in terms of the press format and percentage, the content analysis carried out by AKEED on the study sample showed that Al Dustour, which ranked first in the coverage of environmental issues, did not publish any exclusive interview, field feature, specialized study, or investigative report. Meanwhile, 41.7% of the coverage relied on short news, while reliance on press releases covering environmental activities totaled 29.2%. As for Al Sabeel, which ranked last in terms of covering environmental issues, the coverage that relied on short news totaled 8.3%, while the coverage that relied on press releases reached 16.1%, as shown by Table No (2) below.

Table No. 2: Pattern of Coverage of Environmental Activities in Printed Press and Type of Format and Percentage

Pattern of Coverage of Environmental Activities in Printed Press
 OutletNumberPress Format and Percentage
ReleaseStoryStatementInterviewFeatureStudyInvestigative Report
1Al Dustour19929.21041.70000000000
2Al Ghad171135.4416.60000150110000
3Al Rai16619.3833.4150001500000
4Al Sabeel8516.128.315000000000

Former Minister Khaled Irani, a prominent environmental and conservation of wildlife activist and a member of numerous local and international associations, such as chairman of BirdLife International and elected chairman of the board of directors of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, said:  "There is media coverage of environmental affairs, but this coverage is modest. The media has not done enough, especially in regard to providing specialized coverage based on qualitative analysis and specialized follow-up, relying on statistics, figures, percentages, and charts. Regrettably, in local coverage, we only see a straightforward story or press release sent to all media outlets. Very few columnists possess the analytical, research, and scientific tools that would help them write on environmental affairs."

Irani thinks that the reason for the modest media coverage is the lack of specialized press and specialized journalists. A specialized journalist is not only qualified to present data and statistics and do specialized studies, but is also responsible for environmental affairs. He can devote his full time to this issue and follow all its developments. In addition, he should be able to inquire from ministers or officials about the status of an environmental plan launched one, two, or 10 years ago and about the stages of implementation and related issues.

On the key environmental issues that have not received sufficient coverage, Irani said: "There are many issues, key of which are waste management, air and water pollution, the pollution of agricultural products by chemical substances, the pollution resulting from factories and medical waste, and the impact of land use and urban sprawl."

However, Irani thinks that Jordanian environmental legislation is adequate and guarantees the existence of a safe environment that ensures health and safety for current and future generations. He said: "Legislation is good, but there is always room for improvement. The matter has to do directly with application. We have seen a qualitative leap in Jordan through the approval of the Law on Rangers." He noted that "the Ministry of Environment alone cannot fulfill the role related to protecting the environment. It is a relatively new ministry in Jordan with insufficient staff."

Press writer Batir Wardam, an activist who is interested in environmental press, told AKEED that he had recently sensed what he termed "relative improvement in covering environmental affairs in the Jordanian press, compared with the previous period. However, this improvement does not live up to our expectations."

On whether the press contributes to the creation of public opinion on major environmental issues, he said: "It contributes to some extent. Efforts have been made on some issues, such as the nuclear reactor, landfills, rehabilitating the watercourse of the Zarqa River Basin, cutting off the trees of Barqash Forest, and overhunting. However, these efforts wane once the public is no longer interested in a given issue."

Wardam notes that environmental issues that have a direct impact on the life of citizens receive greater press coverage due to what he termed prioritization in the press. He adds that an environmental piece of news is rarely the lead story or banner headline on the front page unless it has to do with a public opinion issue. Most issues that have an environmental dimension and that are related to readers" interests include news of food and medicine at the expense of other important environmental issues, such as global warming, industrial pollution, medical waste, and others.

He said that newspapers publish press releases and public relations circulars more than press interviews, exclusive statements, and field features due to several factors, including the lack of a general culture interested in environmental affairs. In addition, chief editors focus on political, economic, or sports news. They do not attach the same importance to environmental news. Consequently, they do not give it sufficient space within the context of press prioritization. This is in addition to the lack of journalists who are specialized in environmental affairs and who can follow all developments related to this specialization.