Why ‘MSM’ Still Matter

December 11, 2009
  • Aron Cramer portrait

    Aron Cramer

    President and CEO, BSR

Marc Gunther recently posted an excellent entry on his blog celebrating social media as the technology that may save the planet.

Marc has pointed to something that’s immensely important, with plenty of examples illustrating the remarkable development of a climate community thanks to social media. He and I spoke about this as I interviewed him last week for my forthcoming book, Sustainable Excellence.

It’s easy to forget, and fashionable to dismiss, mainstream media. Those interested in a positive outcome at Copenhagen, as well as on U.S. legislation, do so at their peril.

I am concerned that the dense network of climate blogs, tweets, and other user-generated content serves mainly to strengthen the resolve and impact of those already committed to action. That is a good thing, to be sure.

But I remain unconvinced that this is having much impact on the vast army of people who are either opposed to or undecided about addressing climate. Those are the people we must reach to successfully pass legislation in the United States and generate support for a successor to Kyoto...let alone to change consumer behavior. My hunch is that Sarah Palin's ghastly op-ed in the Washington Post (shame on you, Post!) will reach at least as many people as the next 100 blog posts favoring action.

Polling data show that declining majorities see climate as a priority. This likely reflects economic distress more than science. The fact that rising attention to climate in the blogosphere coincides with declining support for climate action shows the limits of social networks and social media as movers of public opinion. For that, “MSM” still matter.

And in a world in which Tiger Woods’ car crash and the White House party crashers get 24/7 attention in the mainstream media, we have a distance yet to travel.

So let’s celebrate the rise of social media, but also remain focused on how MSM move the vast middle of public opinion that will be central to getting an agreement, and making it work.

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