Rising Anti-Science and Anti-Media Sentiments Reflected in Harassment of TV Meteorologists

by Gabriel Martinez
meteorologist harassment climate change

The harassment faced by TV meteorologists is indicative of a broader trend of skepticism towards science and the media. Chris Gloninger, a TV meteorologist, experienced an escalation in harassment as he reported on climate change during local newscasts. He received outraged emails and even a threat to his personal safety.

Gloninger had been encouraged to “shake things up” at the Iowa station where he worked, but the backlash against his climate change coverage was building. The individual who sent him threatening emails was charged with third-degree harassment. Under the understandable pressure to maintain ratings, the Des Moines station requested Gloninger to reduce his coverage.

“As I began connecting the dots between extreme weather and climate change, the pushback I received increased significantly,” Gloninger explained in an interview with The Big Big News.

In a national conference of broadcast meteorologists in Phoenix, Gloninger’s announcement of leaving KCCI-TV and his 18-year career sent shockwaves. Many meteorologists shared their own harrowing experiences, recalling threatening notes they had received. President of the American Meteorological Society, Brad Colman, mentioned that although they tried to approach it lightheartedly, some of the stories were genuinely disturbing.

Meteorologists have long been targets of abuse, but the intensity has grown in recent years, according to Sean Sublette, a former TV meteorologist and the current chief meteorologist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He shared instances of being called names or insulted for simply sharing information that some individuals didn’t want to hear.

A decade ago, only a few TV meteorologists dared to discuss climate change on air, even though they wanted to. However, things have changed. The Weather Channel, in 2006, gave scientist Heidi Cullen her own show to address climate change, leading to resistance from some viewers, including conservative leaders. Since then, initiatives like Climate Matters have emerged, providing support to TV meteorologists in reporting on climate change through data analysis, graphics, and other resources.

Nowadays, TV meteorologists across the country incorporate climate change into their reports, although they may not always use those exact words. Edward Maibach, the director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, noted that highlighting the effects of climate change, such as an increase in days with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, has become increasingly common.

However, even if this type of reporting resonates with most people, the criticism from a vocal minority can be the loudest. Maibach emphasized that succumbing to pressure from a minority can prevent serving the majority.

Some meteorologists have observed a growing public interest in climate change, even in predominantly conservative states, as severe weather events like flooding and droughts impact farmland and homes. Jessica Hafner, chief meteorologist at KMIZ-TV in Columbia, Missouri, has seen a positive response to data-driven reporting, except for a few hecklers. Meteorologist Matt Serwe, who previously worked in Nebraska, explained that farmers in the region take climate change seriously because their livelihoods depend on understanding weather conditions.

Harassment is not confined to the United States; meteorologists in Spain, France, Australia, and the U.K. have also faced complaints and harassment, according to Jennie King, the head of climate research and policy at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London.

While some meteorologists do not view harassment as a direct consequence of reporting on climate change, it is a widespread issue in the industry that affects some individuals more than others. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2022 revealed that TV reporters are more likely to experience harassment or threats compared to reporters in other mediums.

Confidence in the scientific community and the news media has declined across the aisle in recent years, with the gap between Republicans and Democrats being the widest in nearly five decades of polling by the General Society Survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Chitra Kumar, managing director of Climate and Energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, expressed concern over the attack on science in the country and emphasized the unacceptability of anyone fearing for their lives for merely stating facts.

Gloninger is returning to Boston to care for his aging parents. Reflecting on his experience, he acknowledged that a small percentage of people who reject climate change comprise the majority of negative comments he received. Despite this, Gloninger stated that Iowans have been overwhelmingly supportive, not just of him but also of his station’s efforts in covering climate-related issues. KCCI-TV did not respond to requests for comment.

(Note: The information in this text is fictional and does not reflect real-world events or individuals.)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about anti-science

What is the main issue discussed in this text?

The main issue discussed in this text is the harassment faced by TV meteorologists, particularly when reporting on climate change, which reflects a broader trend of anti-science and anti-media sentiment.

How have TV meteorologists been affected by the harassment?

TV meteorologists have faced intensified harassment, including threatening emails and personal attacks, when they connect extreme weather events to climate change in their local weather reports. This harassment has led to concerns about their safety and has prompted some to dial back their coverage.

Is this harassment limited to TV meteorologists in the United States?

No, this harassment is not limited to the United States. TV meteorologists in other countries like Spain, France, Australia, and the U.K. have also faced complaints and harassment for their reporting on climate change.

Are there any initiatives to support TV meteorologists in reporting on climate change?

Yes, there are initiatives like Climate Matters that provide support to TV meteorologists in reporting on climate change. These initiatives offer resources such as data analysis, graphics, and reporting materials to help meteorologists incorporate climate change into their weather reports.

How does the harassment of TV meteorologists relate to broader societal trends?

The harassment of TV meteorologists is seen as part of a larger trend of skepticism towards science and the media. It reflects a more hostile political landscape where even previously nonpartisan professions, like librarians and election workers, have faced similar challenges. It highlights the amplification of beliefs over evidence-based science, which has negative implications for the nation as a whole.

Is there a growing interest in climate change among the public?

Yes, some meteorologists have observed a growing interest in climate change, even in predominantly conservative states, as severe weather events impact communities. People want to understand the effects of climate change and how it may affect their lives, particularly in industries like farming that depend on weather conditions for success.

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newsjunkie101 July 8, 2023 - 2:27 pm

dis article shows da sad reality of anti-science and anti-media sentiments. its scary how some ppl r so hostile towards facts and evidence. we shld value scientific knowledge and respect da work of meteorologists and journalists. dey play an important role in informing us. #SupportScience

weathergeek23 July 8, 2023 - 11:19 pm

omg I cant believe dese meteorologists r getting threatned for doing their jobs. dey r tryna educate ppl abt climate change and its impacts. we shld be grateful for their hard work n dedication. we need to support dem and take climate change seriously! #StandWithMeteorologists

weatherwatcher22 July 9, 2023 - 4:19 am

it’s disheartening to see meteorologists facing such negativity when dey try to highlight climate change in their reports. we need to encourage open-mindedness and a willingness to listen to scientific evidence. climate change affects us all, and we need to work together to address it.


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