Reporters from around the world gathered in Durban, South Africa to cover the United Nations Climate Conference. Their job: to bring public understanding and transparency to the closed door negotiations on complex geo-political scientific issues. This year the journalists got a little help. James Fahn is Executive Director of Internews' Earth Journalism Network. He tells host Bruce Gellerman about training climate talk reporters how to talk about climate.
Listen to the interview:
Hosted by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and other groups, the 1st annual Climate Communications Day on Dec. 1, brought together journalists, bloggers, public relations professionals, scientists and other communications experts, to share lessons and new approaches on effectively communicating about and covering the news of climate change.
One theme from the session is a golden rule of journalism, and one of our goals in sharing information here at Planet Change: the most compelling stories are those that have a real impact on people’s lives.
What a difference a generation makes. Back in 1984-85, groundbreaking media coverage of the terrible drought and famine that affected around eight million people in Ethiopia spurred an outpouring of Western relief efforts. A harrowing report by BBC broadcaster Michael Buerk is often cited as the spark that led to Band Aid, a supergroup of British and Irish musicians who recorded a pop album for charity, and eventually Live Aid, a group of American pop stars who performed likewise.
I have found that activists, advocates and even policy-makers complain that the mass media ignores ‘their issue’. The general charge is the media’s lack of commitment to social issues and its focus on sensational and juicy stories. What people often ignore is that the media, just like any other industry, follows its constituencies, and hence reports what it deems appropriate for its market. The media follows stories that are considered newsworthy and interesting for its readers. Issues that are deemed newsworthy have a much better chance of being picked up.
To answer that, the Internews Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), in collaboration with HP, the World Bank, Connect 4 Climate and other organizations, will host the 1st annual Climate Communications Day as an official parallel event at the Climate Summit to be held in Durban, South Africa. A day-long forum on Dec.
The 18 journalists – from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States – will spend two weeks at the COP17 conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to report on the intergovernmental negotiations and receive training, editorial support, special briefings from senior scientists and a field trip, among other activities.
In the grand scheme of environmental affairs, journalism is almost always an afterthought. The media world seems to return the disfavor: the environmental beat is one of the least prestigious, and the journalists covering it seem to be among the first laid off during tough times; even journalism schools sometimes give it short shrift.
When President Obama gave his State of the Union address in January, there seemed to be more commentary among environmentalists about what wasn’t said than what was: specifically, his failure to even mention the words “climate change” or “global warming” or “carbon” despite speaking effusively about the need for clean energy development.
When I was a young journalist working as the environment editor for a Thai newspaper back in the 1990s, one of the first things I learned was this: In order to cover the environment, you have to understand the energy sector—not just what it emits, but the politics, economics, and technical issues surrounding it. And vice versa: Those reporting on energy development have to understand its environmental impacts to provide good coverage.
In 2007, Cherelle Jackson started publishing a three-part series of investigative reports that examined plans to develop tourism on an uninhabited island in her home country of Samoa.