2020 was the year of Covid: environment in the background

2020 was supposed to be the year of the green turning point, but the Covid-19 pandemic has catalyzed the attention of the media, putting the environment in the background


2020 promised to be the year of the green turning point to stop the climate crisis, instead it has become the year of the virus. The pandemic, overwhelming the planet, has focused the attention of all the media on itself, rewriting the priorities of the global agenda and slowing down the promotion of sustainable development.

In this regard, the Sustainability and Environment Observatory presented the Eco-Media Report entitled “Environmental information in Italy”.

Over a period of four months, the survey selected ten keywords (or keywords) and analyzed their recurrence in newscasts, web newspapers and social networks. Next to the terms: ‘environment’, ‘biological’, ‘climate’ (or ‘climate change’), ‘ecology’, ‘green economy’, ‘pollution’ and ‘sustainable mobility’, the keyword: ‘covid- 19 / coronavirus’. The analysis shows that the pandemic has affected all services: from politics to culture, from the economy to sport.

Specifically, what weight has the health crisis had in the three main means of communication and how much has the space dedicated to the environment been reduced?

The news

There is no television news in which the words ‘covid-19 / coronavirus’ are not mentioned: among the six news programs observed, this keyword predominates over the other nine. However, the analysis reveals a different sensitivity on the green issue. For Tg1, attention to sustainable issues is very strong, as is the case with Tele 2000, the only local news program among those monitored. Tg3 does not reserve much space for news on the environment and Tg5 spoke of the green economy almost exclusively in relation to the Recovery Fund agreement, financing for electric scooters or eco-bonuses. A similar impact also in the services of SkyTG24 and Tg2000, while in the Tg of La7 only 3.5% of the keywords analyzed refer to sustainable issues compared to 96.5% relating to the pandemic.

The online publications

The seven web newspapers selected were chosen with the aim of reconstructing a picture as complete as possible of digital information. After ‘covid-19 / coronavirus’, the keywords most mentioned by Repubblica are ‘environment’ and ‘climate’, while in Corriere della Sera, 29% of the articles analyzed deal with green topics compared to 16% in The International Post. In Sole24ore.com, the environment is not at the center of the information offered; however, it should be noted that – as in Ilfattoquotidiano.it – ‚Äč‚Äčthere are several articles that link the terms ‘covid-19 / coronavirus’ to environmental keywords. Little attention, on the other hand, was found in the reports of the Giornale and in the Pesaro section of the Resto del Carlino.

Social networks

With regard to social networks, the proliferation of fake news was the most relevant data. The pandemic has triggered a classic communication mechanism whereby, along with the hunger for news, non-certified rumors have increased. Social networks, however, have also conveyed pro-environmental behaviors aimed at its protection through the creation of platforms such as ‘Wiser.org’ or the Italian ‘EnviNET’.

The fate of sustainable communication

What emerges from the Eco-Media 2020 Report is a reduction in the space dedicated to traditional issues, including environmental ones. Although various scientific studies have linked pandemics and sustainable issues, the media did not take the opportunity to deepen this correlation.

In conclusion, during 2020 the focus on green issues may have only been postponed or weakened by economic hardship. Its future will also greatly depend on the impact of the vaccine.

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