Broadcast TV news outlets never fail to cover extreme weather events like hurricanes. But all too often they cover these storms as isolated events, and rarely as evidence that the climate crisis is happening right now — including how and why the impacts of these climate-fueled events are unfairly distributed among poor communities and communities of color. Although climate change affects everyone, those on the frontlines of the climate crisis have far fewer resources to adapt, evacuate, and rebuild after devastating disasters. This ongoing silence has dire implications, as vulnerable communities will likely still be grappling with COVID-19 during a potentially active hurricane season.
A Media Matters analysis of coverage of seven hurricanes and one tropical storm that occurred between 2017 to 2019 found that none of the 669 corporate broadcast evening news segments about these storms explicitly discussed their outsized impact on low-income communities or communities of color – only PBS ran segments that made this connection.
Media Matters analyzed the evening news programs for ABC, CBS, and NBC from January 1, 2017-December 31, 2019, for coverage of Hurricanes Dorian, Florence, Harvey, Humberto, Irma, Maria, and Michael, and Tropical Storm Imelda. In addition, weeknight episodes of PBS NewsHour were included for a comparison point, but they were not included in the full dataset.