Here you find information about the Medien-Doktor UMWELT (Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT) project in English.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to send an e-mail: wiebke.roegener (at) tu-dortmund.de

 

What is the “Medien-Doktor UMWELT” project?

The “Medien-Doktor” (Media Doctor) is a monitoring service offered to journalists by journalists which is based in the Department of Science Journalism at TU Dortmund University. Since November 2010, it has been evaluating medical reporting several times a week and is now extending the service to environmental topics. As with the tried and trusted procedures used for medical reporting, experienced environmental journalists now evaluate print, TV, radio and online reporting based on a specially developed catalogue of criteria. The results of the journalists’ reviews are presented on this website. Visit (LINK) for an overview of the evaluations of environmental reports.

To monitor the quality of environmental reporting, systematic evaluation criteria have been developed and their applicability examined – to our knowledge, this is first time that has ever happened. On the pattern of peer-review (a procedure whereby the work of journalists is evaluated by other journalists – their peers – as in academia), the criteria serve to evaluate texts, television and radio reports using transparent benchmarks. The aim is to improve the quality of reporting on environmental issues on a sustainable basis.  The respective criteria reflect readers’, listeners’ and viewers’ interest in receiving independent, reliable, comprehensible information on environmental issues and their potential solutions. These include, for example, reports on energy and climate research, research projects on sustainable development and strategies to conserve biodiversity as well as reports on the assessment of pollutants or new environmental technologies.

In addition to special criteria for environmental journalism, the Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT also calls on the general criteria in journalism used for the Media Doctor MEDICINE. The latter take account of editorial realities and the factors that influence the decision as to whether a report will be printed or broadcast. Findings from general journalism research also play a role. The criteria presented here were developed in consultation with the reviewers. We are now opening up the discussion and should welcome any positive or negative feedback.

 

What are the objectives of the Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT?

The Media Doctor wants to help generate awareness for required standards of reporting on environmental themes amongst journalists, editorial offices, science communicators and also media users. We thus hope to improve the quality of reporting, focussing particularly on stories that include at least some elements of academic opinion on environmental themes.

The objective is certainly not to home in on particularly negative examples and expose certain media, let alone individual journalists. We do not just want to highlight the problems and deficits of environmental journalism but to feature particularly successful reporting to illustrate how difficult constellations can be presented correctly and informatively whilst still being attractive and interesting. The Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT seeks to draw attention to positive examples and in doing so encourage journalists to measure their own work against them. Hence the criteria are designed as a guide for journalists working on environmental topics. We are, of course, only too aware that the working conditions in the media monitored differ significantly and that the respective quality benchmarks may vary, too. We know from our own experience that the final report with all its strengths and weaknesses is not the exclusive product of the author but also of the editorial office. It is this final product that we evaluate.

The outcomes of the monitoring are systematically evaluated by the Department of Science Journalism at TU Dortmund University. Consequently, they do not only flow into quality journalism research but also specifically into journalism training and continuing education.

 

How is the Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT project financed?

The Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT is funded by the Department of Science Journalismin the Institute of Journalism at TU Dortmund University and the Wilo-Foundation. The project is also supported by the German Science Journalists Association, WPK. We should welcome additional benefactors and project partners. If you are interested, please contact wiebke.roegener@tu-dortmund.de , marcus.anhaeuser@tu-dortmund.de or holger.wormer@tu-dortmund.de.

The Wilo-Foundation was set up by a Dortmund industrial family. Established in 2011, the foundation is the majority shareholder in WILO SE, an international manufacturer of pumps and pumping systems with its headquarters in Dortmund. The foundation funds projects across the world in the fields of science, education, culture and sport. As well as promoting young people, the science funding area supports energy and resource conservation projects, especially as climate change and environmental pollution are two of the most pressing global challenges and are increasingly the focus of media attention. The Wilo-Foundation supports the Media Doctor both in its evaluation of medical reporting and in establishing the online platform, Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT, in order to enhance the quality of reporting on and understanding of environmental themes.

 

Where did the idea for the Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT come from?

The Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT was inspired by monitoring projects in medical journalism: in 2004, the Media Doctor Australia was set up and was followed by projects in Canada (Media Doctor Canada), the USA (HealthNewsReview), Hong Kong (Media Doctor Hong Kong) and, from 2010, the German Media Doctor MEDICINE.

From the very beginning, it was planned to extend the quality monitoring conducted by the Media Doctor MEDICINE to other areas of science journalism. Environmental reporting was chosen as the first new area because reporting on environmental issues (and potential solutions) plays a particular, leading role in the mass media. It often addresses issues that immediately affect readers, listeners and viewers, and sometimes even frighten them. To a greater extent than in other scientific fields, media users are directly or indirectly called upon to act. Therefore it is necessary to check the quality of the respective report and examine how founded such calls for action really are. An additional aspect is the enormous economic significance of environmental research. It consequently comes as no surprise that, in terms of frequency of scientific reports, in some media environmental themes come in second place, only outstripped by medical themes (Elmer, C., Badenschier, F. , and Wormer, H. (2008): Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 4, S. 878-893) – reason enough for the Department of Science Journalism to launch the Media Doctor ENVIRONMENT.

Here you find the relevant press release (German).