As environmental concerns grow, The Sun centres on climate change
Future News 90
In the past it was closely associated with the ‘white van man’ stereotype, now The Sun, News UK’s popular tabloid, is focusing more on issues the white van man’s EV cousin cares about: the environment, pollution and climate change.
The paper has, by way of example, appointed a dedicated COP26 correspondent, Natasha Clark, who will report on all the ups, downs and other developments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow near the end of the year.
A political correspondent, former digital political editor for the outlet and 15-year-strong vegetarian, Clark’s new beat comes as the environment continues to rise up the agenda in Westminster, Whitehall and beyond.
Just 2% of UK voters described pollution as a concern a decade ago and now 10% of adults do, with the UK government promising to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030 in a bid to meet its net-zero target for 2050.
The media landscape has also significantly changed since 2011. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg has become a household name, naturalist Sir David Attenborough has reasserted himself as a national treasure and the so called ‘climate strikes’ made interest in climate change hit a record high at the end of September 2019.
“Traditional Sun readers have been a bit concerned about going green...but it's become more mainstream, especially as it affects them more and more,” Clark told FN, pointing to the Conservative administration’s vehicle reforms as a potential policy of great interest alongside the rise of EVs.
She added: “Everyone is going green these days, it’s an issue we can’t afford to ignore...[The paper] did some polling a few months ago and it showed [readers] do want to do more to help the planet.”
Clark, who went plastic free for Lent 2019 and warned that going entirely green is “not financially viable” for some, also believes that the subject will do well online, where The Sun attracts 130 million monthly unique users.
“Climate change has been seen as a young person’s issue in the past. As the Sun’s readership changes and we focus more on digital that means we are focusing on a younger audience,” she said.
And what kind of reception did Clark receive after announcing her new beat? “Loads of people have been in touch because they're excited about telling climate change news to a new audience,” she said.
The move comes at a time of change for News UK, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Victoria Newton took over as editor of The Sun in February 2020, with Tony Gallagher becoming deputy editor at The Times, which is now able to merge with sister title The Sunday Times.
The company, led by CEO Rebekah Brooks, is also soft-launching a streaming service. The platform’s debut programme, NewsToMe, will be executive produced and presented by Gordon Smart, a former editor of The Scottish Sun. The project is in pre-production without a public launch date.
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