Center for Environmental Journalism


Research Mission

One important part of the Center for Environmental Journalism’s mission is to conduct research on the various aspects of media and environmental issues. This can include everything from risk communication to environmental politics and religion. Here the CEJ, faculty and students work together and individually to help create new knowledge regarding the roles that media play in helping form our environmental values, policies, and behaviors.

Our research mission, broadly stated, is to explore the nexus between science and mediated communication and the consequences of such communication.


Research Activity

CEJ researchers conduct studies on a variety of topics related to how media, communication, and information can influence environmental outcomes through policy, politics, public knowledge, and popular culture. The following are examples of research studies and publications from CEJ faculty.


The International Conference on Culture, Politics, and Climate Change:

September 13-15, 2012
Boulder, CO, USA
Click here to visit the conference website

This cross-disciplinary conference will explore intersections between culture, politics, and science in order to enhance our understanding of public policy addressing climate change. The conference will interrogate the many obstacles and opportunities confronting U.S. climate policymakers and scientists. Presenters will be asked to broadly consider how climate change is communicated and how these processes intersect with ongoing cultural and political issues. While we will focus on climate change, authors are encouraged to draw lessons that can be applied to a variety of environmental contexts. Comparative papers and panels that explore similarities and differences between culture, politics, and climate policy in the U.S. and other countries are encouraged.


Environmental Messaging: Persuasion, Use, and Policy Outcomes:

Technical decisions often impact the environment in significant and permanent ways. Environmental policy literature indicates that, in such venues, experts dominate discourse debate and influence policy outcomes. When experts dominate the policy process, and media coverage of technical policy decisions is minimal, the public will not likely contribute in meaningful ways to policy decisions. One hurdle to overcoming this trend is the difficulty of effectively communicating complex ideas to the public in a manner that promotes understanding and participation. As environmental problems grow increasingly difficult to solve, and technical data produce comprehension barriers for the average citizen, it is important for scholars to understand the content and effects of environmental messages. This project uses experimental survey methods to analyze the effectiveness of various messages, senders, media frames, and information in a technical environmental policy context. The project seeks to measure what communication variables are most effective in technical environmental policy venues.

Crow, D.A. & Stevens, J. R. Framing of Environmental Issues in the Media: What Informs the Public? Working paper.

Stevens, J.R. & Crow, D. A. Influential Messaging in Environmental Issues: Who Persuades the Public? Working paper.


Local News and Environmental Reporting in Colorado:

The new reality of local environmental reporting involves reduced resources, staffing, and training for journalists who are expected to cover environmental issues. At the same time, large segments of the American population are uninformed about policy issues that affect their lives and their communities. This dichotomy sets up a conflict between the journalistic resources that a democracy cannot afford to lose and those that media outlets cannot afford to provide. This also calls into question the training of journalists and the needs of future journalists. The new expectations of journalists not only include an expanded ability to fill the role of expert reporters, but also the ability to provide coverage in a multi-media environment, which is not among the core competencies of traditional local media outlets. This study surveyed Colorado journalists across media platforms to better understand the conditions under which they report on environmental topics and the preparation and training that they’ve had.
Crow, D.A. and J. Richard Stevens. Local News and the Communication of Science and Environmental Topics. Under Review.

Stevens, J.R. & Crow, D.A. (2011). Teaching Millennials to Engage THE Environment instead of THEIR Environment: A Pedagogical Analysis. Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual Conference, St. Louis, MO, August 2011.

Crow, D.A. & Stevens, J. R. (2011). Mass Media, Environmental Policy, and Citizen Engagement. Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, March-April 2011.

Conservation and Conflict in Policymaking:

Based on previous research, it is evident that stakeholders involved in Colorado water policy may define the word ‘conservation’ differently. The two potential definitions of this word carry vastly different connotations for policy outcomes: one promotes using less water while the other promotes diverting more water. It is, therefore, important to understand whether these definitions are pervasive throughout the water community in Colorado and whether there are demographic differences in who uses the different definitions. This research will also attempt to understand whether participants in one important stakeholder negotiation process in Colorado have actually encountered any difficulties with policy discussion groups based upon differing interpretations of the word ‘conservation’.

Crow, D.A. & Baysha, O. (2011). ‘Conservation’ as a Catalyst for Conflict: Message and Meaning in Policymaking. American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA, September 2011.

Recreational Water Rights and Policy Change in Colorado:

Research on the process of policy change often involves a direct or indirect analysis of the roles of policy entrepreneurs and the mass media. In Colorado, beginning in 1998, twelve communities decided to obtain water rights for recreational in-channel purposes such as kayaking and whitewater rafting. These water rights stirred political controversy within some communities in Colorado related to spending public monies, appropriate uses of water, and the role of recreation in local economies. A multi-methods cross-case research design was used to examine the policy process within 18 Colorado communities. This project includes analyses of media influence, expert and citizen involvement, and the role of these factors in promoting awareness about recreational water rights as well as policy change in this policy venue.

Crow, D.A. Policy Diffusion and Innovation: Media and Experts in Colorado Recreational Water Rights. Under review.

Crow, D.A. (in press). News Coverage and Access to Contextual Policy Information in the Case of Recreational Water Rights in Colorado. Applied Environmental Education and Communication: An International Journal.

Crow, D. A., & Stevens, J. R. (in press). Citizen Engagement in Local Environmental Policy: Information, Mobilization, and Media. In H. Schachter & K. Yang (Eds.), The State of Citizen Participation in America. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Crow, D.A. (2010). Policy Entrepreneurs, Issue Experts, and Water Rights Policy Change in Colorado. Review of Policy Research, 27(3), 299-315.

Crow, D.A. (2010). Policy Punctuations in Colorado Water Law: The Breakdown of a Monopoly. Review of Policy Research, 27(2), 147-166.

Crow, D.A. (2010). Local Media and Experts: Sources of Environmental Policy Initiation? Policy Studies Journal, 38(1), 143-164.

Crow, D.A. (2009). Responsive Public Officials and Engaged Citizens: Myth or Reality? A Case Study of Water Rights Policy in Colorado. Public Organization Review, 9(2),119-138.

Crow, D.A. (2008). Stakeholder Behavior and Legislative Influence: A Case Study of Recreational Water Rights in Colorado. The Social Science Journal, 45(4), 646-658.


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