Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Robert Dardenne, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deni Elliott, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Jerome Walters, D.V.M


environmental communication, environmental journalist, science journalism, risk communication, media guide


This thesis addressed the question, "How should journalists cover the environment, according to the conversation between the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmental journalism?" Do the handbooks, written for practicing journalists, agree with the academic scholarship on environmental journalism?

The conversation between the literature and handbooks is important to examine, as the handbooks are tools journalists may use when reporting on the environment. The handbooks could influence a journalist, who influences the public, who make decisions in a democracy. As well, examining the conversation between the literature and the handbooks reveals whether or not the academy and the practice agree on how to respond to the criticisms and challenges of environmental journalism. Do they offer the same tips for improvement?

First, an extensive literature review on environmental journalism revealed the criticisms, challenges, and tips to improve. Second, a qualitative document analysis examined handbooks published for journalists covering the environment to capture definitions, meanings, and similarities and differences among them. Third, the results of the literature review and the results of the document analysis were compared to examine if the handbooks respond, emulate, or differ from the literature content.

Findings include five qualitative document analyses of the handbooks, and a comparative essay of the handbooks to the scholarly literature. These findings were based on the researcher's interpretive analysis.

The conversation between the literature and handbooks is a healthy one. As the literature presents challenges and criticisms, the handbooks suggest solutions. Most importantly, as the literature presents tips and techniques for improvement, the handbooks agree with the ways to improve. Overall, the scholarship on environmental journalism and the handbooks on environmental journalism are "on the same page." Both support understanding audience needs, obtaining a solid understanding of a topic before reporting, addressing environmental issues thoroughly, translating the science, providing the history of a topic, addressing risk, using diverse sources, maintaining long-term coverage, disseminating objective information, and more training for journalists.