Climate change suddenly a hot topic in newsrooms
New outlets have long been criticized for ignoring or downplaying the burning issue of climate change but it has suddenly become a hot topic in newsrooms everywhere.
Possibly because more than 250 news outlets around the world have committed to Covering Climate Now, an initiative launched at the end of April to provide focused coverage of the climate crisis in print, on air and online, reports CNN Business.
Participating news outlets are running stories in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23.
One of the goals is to get people in newsrooms “to start thinking” about how to cover the subject in a sustained way, veteran journalist Kyle Pope said on this week’s “Reliable Sources” CNN podcast.
Pope is the editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, which spearheaded the initiative along with Mark Hertsgaard of The Nation magazine earlier this year. The Guardian came on board right away, and other newsrooms have been signing on ever since.
“The network represents every corner of the media including TV networks (CBS News, Al Jazeera), newspapers (El País, the Toronto Star), digital players (BuzzFeed, HuffPost, Vox), wire services (Getty Images, Bloomberg), magazines (Nature, Scientific American), and dozens of podcasts, local publishers, radio and TV stations,” The Guardian reported Sunday.
Pope said the coalition seeks to marshal news coverage to “match how big this story is.”
“We’re not telling people what to write,” he said. “We’re not telling them who they should quote. We’re not telling them what their story is… All we know is that there are climate stories that you should be devoting more of your attention to.”
When enlisting newsrooms to participate in this week’s focused coverage, Pope said editors and executives brought up a number of concerns, including a fear of being seen as activists.
“I just thought that, you know, journalism history is full of times when reporters tackled really controversial, thorny topics,” Pope said.
The coalition will be publishing examples of work from participating news outlets on a dedicated website.
An early example of the coalition’s breadth came from The Spinoff, a New Zealand online magazine, which published a story on Sunday about the implications of climate change at two ends of the country.
In Vermont, meantime, the nonprofit site VTDigger said it would be exploring “the many changes Vermont is already experiencing due to climate change, and look at how these trends could transform the state, from who’s living here to which pests inhabit our farms and forests.”
The Columbia Journalism Review has described the media’s minimization of the looming disaster of as one of the great jouralistic failures.
“Spun by the fossil-fuel industry and vexed by their own business problems, media outlets often leaned on a false balance between the views of genuine scientists and those of paid corporate mouthpieces,” it reports.
But the response of the 250 news outlets from across the U.S. and around the world – big outlets and small, print and digital, TV and radio—with a combined audience of well over 1 billion people “has been amazing and gratifying.”
Based on conversations with many newsrooms, the CJR article explores roadblocks to climate change coverage and how to overcome them.
Meanwhile, journalist McKenzie Funk Funk shared his findings from his book “Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming” with a crowd at the University of Michigan. His work addresses how businesses often take advantage of environmental issues to generate a profit.
According to Funk, businesses use their influence with the wealthy people to profit from the effects of climate change. He gave numerous examples, including how insurers fortified valuable homes on the east coast and in California from natural disasters while ignoring those of poorer residents.
Funk pointed to a $10-12 billion plan made by Dutch architects to protect New York City from storms like Hurricane Sandy. “The clear favorite was a seawall that would go across the Verrazano-Narrows (a strait separating Staten Island and Brooklyn) and it would block any storm surge coming toward Manhattan,” Funk said. “It would also send even more water to the poor areas on the side. So what we had was a seawall that would protect the wealthiest part of the wealthiest city perhaps in the world while drenching the poor.”
When asked about positive efforts to combat the climate crisis, Funk said, “I don’t think we’re doomed. I think it’s a question of how many of us are saved.”