Can Responsible Journalism Shape Climate Change?

portrait Gaurav Shetty
Gaurav Shetty is examining how journalism mediates our understanding and response to climate change.

For his Honors thesis, Gaurav Shetty (journalism and international relations double major) is studying how the power of journalism can produce clarity in our understanding of climate change, and shape positive outcomes.

Historically, climate change has proven challenging for journalists, Shetty says, because it lacks the immediacy that drives most journalism. “Climate change is abstract until it’s too late,” he explains. “And by the time people are experiencing the effects, it might get reported on without reference to the larger causes.” Also problematic, he says, has been the convention of balancing viewpoints—traditionally considered a pillar of journalistic impartiality. In reporting on climate change issues, however, this practice has sometimes led to unscientific or inaccurate statements being framed as comparable to data- and expert-supported theories.

Honors core faculty member Melissa Chesser, who serves as Shetty’s thesis advisor, helped him design the project to study how conventions of journalism have been a factor determining cultural views of climate change. “In the context of journalism, climate change is an ever-expanding, important issue—in some way, almost every story is or will be a climate story,” Chessher says.

A grant through the Honors program supported Shetty’s research in Florida, where he documented sea level rise and conducted on-the-ground reporting.

This story includes excerpts from Sarah H. Griffin’s Syracuse University News feature story

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