From the alarming fallout of the climate crisis, to government corruption linked to environmental crimes, to organized crime’s impact on rainforest deforestation, there is no shortage of topics for journalists to cover in relation to the environment. As a result, more and more journalists are now becoming environmental reporters in what was once considered a niche area.
Ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, IJNet and the Pamela Howard Forum on Global Crisis Reporting have shared tips and tools for journalists covering the conference and newcomers to reporting to the beat of environmental reporting.
Environmental Journalist and IJNet Chinese Editor crystal chowand May Kattan investigative journalist who has covered environmental crime in Syria and is currently the Middle East Editor of the Environmental Investigative Forum, discussed what it means to cover COP27, the importance of environmental reporting, environmental reporting tools and more.
Here are the highlights from the discussion:
The role of environmental journalists during COP27
Journalists are traditionally taught not to take sides in their reporting. But there is only one side to the climate crisis, said Chow.
“I’m not saying we should go and become activists ourselves, but I think we should report the issue through the lens of the judiciary,” she said. “I think we should highlight [climate change’s] Making an impact, highlighting what hasn’t been done, presenting some of the possible solutions and making ourselves understandable to people.”
During the COP27 conference in Egypt, journalists from the Middle East and North Africa play an important role in communicating the conference to the regional audience. However, not everyone may be ready to report on the events, Katt said. “Especially in the Middle East, many journalists don’t have or miss some of the capacity, especially the technical part of it. With the Environmental Investigative Journalism Forum, we’re trying to support journalists and provide them with information when they need it,” Katt said.
Should everyone become an environmental journalist?
Reporting on the climate crisis is a global issue that transcends a single blow and can span a multitude of topics. Many environmental stories are also collaborations, Chow noted. “I think the key is not trying to learn everything on our own because we can’t,” she said. “It’s about connecting and collaborating with people with different scales and perspectives.”
Katt also emphasized the importance of cross-border stories, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa regions. “That’s very clear [climate change] is the most important cross-border issue we can all work on together,” said Katt. “If we have that in mind as an organization, as editorial offices and also as individual freelancers, then we can certainly do something about it.”
Tips for new environmental journalists
It’s important that journalists interested in reporting on climate change expand their knowledge of the science of climate change and other environmental issues, Katt said. A full understanding of the science at hand can facilitate better reporting of issues. This is particularly important because journalists are not researchers, but storytellers, said Katt: “We need to make people understand what we write about and touch their minds, hearts and feelings. This way we can [influence] the effect that we want or hope will somehow occur.”
Journalists should try to find stories that resonate with their audience without overdoing the news. “We are not, of course, downplaying the seriousness of the climate crisis, but we must be as honest and accurate as possible when responding,” Chow said.
According to Chow, sensational headlines about climate change can be accompanied by misinformation and misused data. This can affect readers’ confidence in the coverage they come across. “As soon as you sit [misinformation] you can’t really take out there [it] back, so it’s a disaster,” Chow said.
The future of environmental reporting
As environmental journalism evolves, so does the way it is reported. In the Middle East and North Africa, for example, more stories from a climate perspective have integrated investigative journalistic approaches, according to Katt.
“It can also bring about a big change [in] the high level – the level of government – which I think is the most important for us in our region,” she said.
Chow sees the future of environmental reporting as more and more people from different sectors and regions coming to collaborate on climate change reporting projects: “Coming from different continents and maybe Mais and I or whoever’s watching can start brainstorming again.” of projects.”
Image by Sebastian Ganso from Pixabay.