The News Media, Environmental Collaborations and Accountability: A survey of the EPA's Roster of Environmental Conflict Resolution and Consensus Building Professionals
This study is exploratory research examining the relationship between the news media and environmental collaborations. It reports the results of a 2008 online survey of the 250 members of the EPA's National Roster of Environmental Conflict Resolution and Consensus Building Professionals. The study asked about the impact of the media on environmental collaborations, but the major finding actually concerned the significant impact that the process of collaboration has had on the press and its role in environmental problem-solving. Collaboration professionals in this study apparently no longer see the press as a major influence in environmental dispute resolution. The most common estimate of press impact was "slight". A large majority of respondents (71%) said the news media overall have a positive or neutral impact on environmental collaboration outcomes -- surprising numbers, considering the past negative history of the press and environmental issues. From the practitioner's perspective, the most important finding may concern Media Ground Rules (guidelines that govern how collaborations interact with the news media). With Media Ground Rules in place, 74% of collaborations reported the press had a positive impact. In contrast, a negative press impact was reported by 60% of collaborations without Media Ground Rules in place. Since 2008, we have seen growth in environmental collaboration, but at the same time, wholesale closures of American newspapers, along with a stunning decline in the number of environmental reporters and environmental coverage in local news. This study looks at the implications of these developments for accountability and environmental collaborations.