A World War II Scale Effort: The New Republic

What level of public attention is required for the “WWII-scale effort” urged by Thomas Friedman and others? To provide a provisional answer to this question, GW students in Professor Svoboda’s UW-20 classes examined ten magazines published during WWII and still in print today. They compared each magazine’s coverage of WWII during 1942 with its coverage of climate change from July 2008 to June 2009. Up to 12 issues were examined for each period. (See a more detailed overview of the project here.) Today we present an analysis of The New Republic, a weekly journal of politics and culture.

TNR HeadersComparison of Coverage of WWII and Climate Change in
The New Republic Magazine during 1942 and 2008/2009

A report by Jonathan Foremny, Stephen Manning, JJ Minder, and Gillian Weeks

In this comparative study of the news coverage of World War II and climate change in The New Republic, we found significant differences.  In 1942, 81% of the articles in the magazine were about World War II events and efforts. In 2008/2009, articles relating to climate change accounted for only 4% of magazine. Our results show that we are far from the level of coverage a “World War II-scale effort” likely requires.

In September 2009, we analyzed 1942 and 2008/2009 issues of The New Republic, searching for articles related to World War II and climate change respectively. The New Republic is printed on a weekly basis and a random sample of one issue per month was taken for this study, bringing the total of number of issues sampled to twelve issues for each period. 

The World War II Study

The issues we analyzed were taken from 1942, the year the U.S. fully engaged the war. Each issue included several major articles; however, a few book reviews were also incorporated at the end of each issue. The total number of major articles and book reviews related to World War II was 68/84 or about 81%.  These articles always took a pro-war stance.  While most of the major articles dealt with the war, most of the book reviews did not.  This could have skewed our results slightly.  Without the book reviews, the average could have been as high as 90–95%.

The Climate Change Study

We were not surprised by how few articles on climate change we found in the 2008/2009 issues of The New Republic; nevertheless, we were discouraged by these results. We did not expect that a political magazine like The New Republic would be full of articles about climate change and global warming—unless the topic was the focus of a political debate. However, the fact that only 4% of the magazine’s articles discussed climate change implies that The New Republic’s readers were not nearly as interested in hearing about this topic as they were in hearing about the recession or the upcoming election—where this topic was not being discussed either.

Conclusions

The structure of the magazine seems to have remained fairly constant over the past 70 years.  Our analysis reveals that WWII was a much more important, pressing issue in the lives of Americans living during the 1940’s than the issue of global climate change is in the lives of people today. In 1942, 81% of major articles were concerned with WWII while only 4% now are concerned with climate change. Our results suggest that we are far from the level of coverage a “World War II-scale effort” likely requires.

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