Climate change reporting is a real challenge for science journalists. There is a wide range of news angles to choose from — and it is often hard to find one that convinces editors.
A good strategy when covering stories about climate change is to not lose the “big picture”, said Andrew Revkin, environment reporter for the New York Times, at the session ‘Climate change coverage: The messy marriage of science, policy and politics’.
Revkin said that it is important to frame news, making the context clear.
There has been a steady increase in media coverage of climate change in the last 20 years, according to Maxwell Boykoff — a research fellow at Oxford University — who presented the results of a study at the session. But analysing the headlines and text of news stories, he found that there is sometimes no coherence between the two.
Richard Black, environment correspondent for BBC News, pointed out that when reporting on climate change a reporter has to face not only science, policy and politics but also business, education, culture and many other areas.
For example, explaining the mechanisms of the ‘carbon market’ is really complicated and incorporates a variety of areas. “You need to learn,” Black warned, “and if you are not sure about something, just don’t say it.”
Black said that climate change is undeniably a major environment issue. Desertification, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, decline of fisheries and growth of population are all related to climate change. But Black pointed out that media coverage about these phenomena is “pretty bad”.
A key when reporting is to link your story with your region, said Black, to “find the relevant element in your time and place,” he concluded.
I think that’s a really a big challenge!
Laura García, freelance contributor to SciDev.Net