Category Archives: media messages

Effective Climate Change Messaging: A Media Lit Primer

[Note: This post was originally featured on CleanTechnica.]

As climate change advocates, we know how important it is to connect with our audiences through effective messaging. Training and technical assistance for environmental decision-makers is typical, but many of these leaders crave communications management. They understand communication challenges and recognize the importance of the “mindset” in framing our climate change communications.

But what are the best approaches to designing constructive, persuasive messages about climate change? What works to convince resistant audiences? What do deliberate climate change communications look like? These are important questions that need answers, because by understanding climate interpretation, we can change the national discourse — especially from the media — and focus on meaningful solutions that bring divergent groups together toward collaborative solutions to climate change.

climate change communications

Climate Change Communications Must Target Mental & Cultural Models

Jennifer West, coastal training program coordinator at the Narragansett Bay Estuarine Research Reserve, spoke at the Land & Water Conservation Summit at the University of Rhode Island campus in Kingston on March 10, 2018. She started out by outlining what climate change advocates need to know prior to composing climate change communications.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What does your audience know and think?
  • What would you like your audience to know, think, and do?

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“I’d Like to Drive a Hybrid Car” Hyundai Commercial Debunks Stereotypes

[Note: This post was originally featured on Gas2]

Hybrid cars should have much higher sales in the U.S. They’re a compromise between the conscious knowledge that fossil fuel engines hurt the environment and the subconscious stress produced by range anxiety. So, why aren’t more people buying hybrid cars?

Maybe it’s because of misinformation campaigns from fossil fuel-funded news outlets like Breitbart, which states that, “Apart from being poky and tinny and smug and expensive and utterly useless for long distances, electric cars are also terrible for health and the environment.”


Whew! There is so much research out there to contradict these Breitbart fallacies. Here are some stories that demonstrate how foolish the Breitbart claims are. (Hang your cursor over the explanations.)

The popularity of hybrids is growing annually, and they have the potential to unseat gasoline as the fuel for our cars, which scares the bejesus out of oil companies.

Yet, let’s acknowledge a fact about consumerism: people tend to buy items that are highly marketed. Since U.S. automakers have devoted nearly nothing to advertise any type of electric vehicle, their appeal remains relatively low in the U.S.

That is, until now. The folks over at Hyundai have a new commercial out on the television airwaves right now that pitches the 2017 Ioniq, a hybrid vehicle. The commercial is an overt attempt to debunk stereotypes of a hybrid driver. Instead of hiding behind research data, Hyundai has created a marketing message that explicitly addresses the average U.S. person’s concerns about driving a hybrid car. It’s funny, self-deprecating, and very effective.

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Seven Techniques that Donald Trump Uses to Control the Media

[Note: This post was originally featured on PlanetSave]

At the time of our nation’s inception, the Founders supported an open, free exchange of ideas as a necessary ingredient for the survival of a representative democracy. As Benjamin Franklin proclaimed, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” Freedoms of speech and press in the First Amendment, according to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black are essential to the U.S. constitution. “The Framers knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.” Censorship is used to stop truths or ideas from emerging, to prevent the ability to draw attention to powerful people or governments, or to undermine ideology. President-elect Donald Trump understands the power of a free and independent press, according to Robert Reich, and does what all tyrants do: he tries to “squelch it.”


Reich, the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has outlined seven techniques that Donald Trump has used to undermine the power of the press. Reich calls these strategies “worrying.”

1. Berate the media: Trump “summoned” two-dozen TV news anchors and executives and berated them for their election coverage.

According to Vanity Fair, sources told the New York Post that Trump, in a dressing-down, characterized the assembled media execs as a “fucking firing squad,” with the president-elect attacking CNN in particular. “Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong,’ ” the source said.  Reich related how another person who attended the meeting said Trump “truly doesn’t seem to understand the First Amendment. He thinks we are supposed to say what he says and that’s it.”

2. Blacklist critical media: Trump’s Facebook page read that the Washington Post was “phony and dishonest” and later revoked their press credentials.

Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said, “Donald Trump’s decision to revoke The Washington Post’s press credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press. When coverage doesn’t correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished.” CNN Money has the Trump Blacklist of media outlets, which includes Huffington Post, Politico, and Buzzfeed.

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She’s in the News at the Boston Marathon

On Patriot’s Day each year, eastern Massachusetts reinvents itself with the Boston Marathon. Over half a million visitors in 2015 are expected to generate $181 million for the greater Boston economy, according to the Boston Athletic Association.  Starting in Hopkinton, running through six cities and towns, and ending on Boylston Street in Boston, the Boston Marathon is open to runners 18 or older from any nation, but they must meet certain qualifying standards.  006For example, prospective runners  aged 18–34 must run a time of no more than 3 hours and 5 minutes if male, or 3 hours and 35 minutes in the same age range if female,  Qualifying times are not the only areas in which males and females differ at the Boston Marathon.  Elite male and female runners have different start times, with Elite females beginning about 30 minutes prior to the Elite males.

Which female runners make the most news?

And the news stories about male and female runners differ significantly, even though 46% of the 2015 field is female. elite womenThe top 2015 story about Boston Marathon female runners wasn’t even about someone who actually ran the race; in fact, it was Kendall Schler who made the news.  Schler, who was initially reported to be first woman to cross the finish line at the GO! St. Louis Marathon, which would have made her eligible for the Boston Marathon, was disqualified.  According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,  officials said that Schler did not register any times on the route and marathon photos failed to turn up images of her on the course.

The Schler debacle, of course, rejuvenates the collective memory of another marathoner, Rosie Ruiz, who famously used public transit system to augment her run but was exposed as a fraud after she crossed the 1980 Boston Marathon finish line first. And the Boston Globe has reported that this year’s Boston Marathon will not include the 2014 defending female champion Rita Jeptoo, as the Kenyan is serving a two-year suspension for doping,

Caroline Rotich (KEN) and Mare Dibaba (ETH) sprint to the finish during the 2015 Boston Marathon. (Photo: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

The Good News about the Female Runners

So, are there positive stories about female runners that the press might focus on as they cover the 2015 Boston Marathon?  Sure, this field of female athletes is the strongest ever to run the Marathon.   We’d like to know more about the Kenyan winner, Caroline Rotich, and Ethiopians Mare Dibaba and Buzunesh Deba, who brought the fastest female runner times to Boston. We could chronicle the strong American female contender, American Desiree Davila Linden, or remember Lisa Larsen Rainsberger, who took the female title in 1985. And it goes without saying that we must continue to honor Kathy Switzer, whose attempt to run in the 1967 Boston Marathon under a gender-neutral name caused then-Boston Athletic Association director Will Cloney to argue that “we have no space in the Marathon for any unauthorized person… If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her.”  By 1972, females were allowed to register for the Boston Marathon, and progress for women’s rights in sport has continued.

A Few Steps Forward with a Couple of Steps Back

But to what degree has progress been made?  We might turn to one of the top 2015 stories about females and the Boston Marathon: The Best Manicures at the Boston Marathon.  To accentuate the status of elite female athletes, we all must speak vociferously about their accomplishments at the Boston Marathon and elsewhere.

solo female 1solo female 3solo female 4solo female 2



Blended Learning Conference

Carolyn delivered a presentation at the Blended Learning Conference called “The Art of Digital Challenge and Choice: Curated Collections of Texts for Student Inquiry.”  Participants in this workshop experienced a hands-on, action-based digital curriculum that emphasizes choice and inquiry. After moving through a series of quick tutorials on how students access and utilize materials, participants surveyed thematically-based curated collections and explored how students convert their play-lists into original digital compositions and creations. Highlander Institute, Providence, in conjunction with URI’s Media Education Lab. May, 2014.

Rhode Island Writing Project

Carolyn delivered a presentation titled, “Modeling the Digital Writing Workshop” at the Rhode Island Writing Project annual spring conference.  She demonstrated how teachers can move from pre-assessments into scaffolded learning events and onto student proficiency in digital analysis and composing. March, 2013. Providence, RI.

National Council of Teachers of English

Carolyn shared two curriculum units at NCTE.  The first was “(Re)Imagining Ibsen’s A Doll’s House with Critical Literacy.” The second was “Online Persona Role Plays: Advertisement Analysis.”  Each offered participants the opportunity to see how students can depersonalize their literacy experiences to more keenly relate to individuals, settings, and cultural practices outside what’s considered “normal.”  Digital media literacy analysis and composition helped students create critical distance from media messages. November, 2013. Boston, MA.