Climate Journalism: Capacity knowledge and outreach

Nov 17 2020 | 12:10:21
Webinar Report17 November, 2020The Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC) held a webinar on “Climate Journalism: Capacity, Knowledge and Outreach” on 17th November, 2020. The panel of eminent journalists included Shahzada Irfan Ahmad, Rina Saeed Khan, Shabina Faraz, and Syed Muhammad Abubakar. The session was  moderated by Afia Salam with introductory remarks by Aisha Khan, CEO CSCCC.Aisha Khan said the one of the objectives of CSCCC was to raise awareness and increase the bandwidth of climate advocacy. “To achieve this objective CSCCC uses a variety of platforms but media outreach remains a key domain” she said. However she highlighted the point that despite an increase in climate discourse after the Paris Agreement the media coverage was not proportionate to the threat posed by climate change. The purpose of the webinar she said was to hear directly from the journalists about the reporting challenges they face and also receive recommendations  on how to create more center stage space for climate stories in the media. Shahzada Irfan said that one reason why climate stories don’t find traction with the public is because they are event based and fail to create a causal link. Reporting on floods and air quality are only filed when there is a disaster or when smog interferes with mobility. The main reason for this he said was lack of training on how to pitch a story to get a buy in from the readership. Moreover climate stories are most effective he said when they bring out the human face of the impact. This requires travel to the affected area and logistic support which is not available to most journalists. He recommended need for training and facilitation from civil society and other stakeholders to support climate journalismRina Saeed Khan emphasized the struggle that journalists faced to get climate change stories published. However, she said there was a shift after the 2010 super floods and Pakistan routinely featuring in the top 10 most vulnerable country list. The interest in the subject has increased she said and the topic was receiving more coverage than before but given the gravity of the consequences of climate change more effort needs to go in for creating a niche space for the subject and its coverage. She also stressed on the importance of capacity building of journalists and increasing their access to experts, research and funds.  She also pointed out the importance of social media in highlighting stories and how a good, well-researched story now has many more options to reach the audience outside of mainstream media. Shabina Faraz, being the only panelist with a background in Urdu journalism, highlighted the low level of coverage that climate change articles get in the Urdu press. She pointed out that for many Urdu journalists global climate agreements and issues pertaining to mitigation and adaptation were knowledge gaps due to lack of awareness about the subject.  She put emphasis on the fact that climate change stories were being reported as current affairs but the reason and causes behind these events were not being addressed. Both the print and electronic media she said rely on rating and as the public has a greater appetite for sensational stories climate change gets relegated to the periphery. She mentioned the importance of sensitizing editors regarding these topics, including a human element in reporting climate stories, training programs for journalists, equal funding and support to English as well as regional journalists. Syed M. Abubakar spoke about the reality of climate change, the importance of climate journalism and the difficulties faced by journalists. He highlighted the importance given to sudden climate induced disasters and events at the risk of ignoring slow onset events that could have devastating consequences. He talked about the constraints and challenges faced by journalist in reaching out to credible sources of information and recommended a structured approach to briefing on climate issues from relevant government departments and developing an inventory of experts who can be contacted for comments.    He was of the opinion that adverting agencies could play a role in creating space for climate coverage but they did not consider climate change as a priority. Effective communication, he said, was essential for making these stories more reader friendly and impactful. As the other panelists, Mr. Abubakar also emphasized the importance of funding, fellowships, training, support, stimulating debate and raising awareness. He said that the government needed to allocate funds for this purpose and encouraged multilateral donors to invest in strengthening media capacity.Afia Salam moderated the discussion and covered a vast range of issues during the course of the webinar. She attributed the low percentage of investigative stories to lack of training and paucity of funds. She emphasized on the need for building and strengthening the capacities of regional and female journalists and also sensitizing media managers about the importance of climate change so that climate stories could be disseminated to a wider audience During the Q&A session it was highlighted that effective climate change journalism could enable citizens, the private sector and decision makers to collaborate in designing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies that facilitate policy makers in making decisions that are place based and people centric. Key Takeaways: ·       Pitching climate stories that strike a resonating chord with the public and get a buy In from stakeholders·       Access to funding for covering climate stories and more opportunities for training and building capacity. ·       Sensitizing editors and media owners to create niche space for climate stories. ·       Climate reporting to be less technical in language and  more effective in highlighting the human face of climate impacts·       Regular media briefing from relevant departments, and forums for interaction with civil society and other stakeholders. ·       Supporting and promoting female climate journalists and reporting in local language. ·       Stepping up the role of civil society and private sector to support climate journalism·       Optimizing use of social media for self-publication and creating a climate constituency