25 tips for climate change journalistsNo comments
This collection is based on training presentations to journalists from around the world, and especially the global South, that I have given in recent years.
1. Know your audience. When you sit down to write a story there is only one person that matters and it is not you, not your editor and not the person you just interviewed. It is the reader or listener or viewer – someone who are unlikely to ever meet. They are the most important people in the world. Be familiar with their level of knowledge about climate change and about the things they care most about. If in doubt, assume your audience knows nothing. But never make the mistake of assuming that they are stupid. The classic error in journalism is to over-estimate the audience’s knowledge and under-estimate their intelligence.
2. Understand the basics. If you don’t have a thorough understanding of the key topics, your audience never will. You need to know and understand the greenhouse effect and the various sources of greenhouse gases. You need to understand the kinds of impacts that a warmer world could bring, and the difference between risk and vulnerability, and between adaptation and mitigation. If you don’t know these things know you can train yourself with online courses such as the News University’s one or the Earth Journalism Toolkit.
3. Team up. To tell the story of climate change well you need to understand the science, the politics, the economics and more. But no-one can excel in all of these aspects. Even superheroes achieve more as a team. So team up with other journalists. Time journalist Eric Pooley has urged media outlets to create climate policy teams that include environmental science reporters, political reporters and business and energy reporters. This mix, working together, would be able to combine their strengths to report more effectively on these three angles, which are deeply connected but usually reported on in isolation.