How do journalists who cover the environment cope with the relentless flow of depressing information? Should they strive for neutrality or become advocates for action on issues such as climate change and the biodiversity crisis? And how can these journalists stay safe when powerful forces want to silence them, and too often succeed?
These are some of the questions I posed to a distinguished panel at a recent event celebrating the 15th birthday of the Earth Journalism Network (EJN), a programme created by Internews to improve the quality and quantity of media coverage of environmental issues around the world.
My relationship with EJN dates back to 2007, when I was working at the International Institute for Environment and Development. Together with colleagues at Panos, we set up the Climate Change Media Partnership, which took 40 journalists to the international climate change negotiations for a fellowship programme that has repeated every year since.
More recently, I have been helping EJN manage its Biodiversity Media Initiative and a project supporting journalists who are investigating illegal wildlife trafficking. So, I was very happy to be invited to moderate the discussion at EJN’s anniversary event.
The panellists were: James Painter, research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford; Mona Samari, a fisheries expert and independent consultant who ran an EJN project supporting journalists covering fisheries in West Africa; Navin Khadka, Environment Correspondent for the BBC World Service; and James Fahn, EJN’s executive director and a lecturer at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Among other things, we discussed whether media outlets should drop ‘climate change’ in place of ‘climate emergency’, whether biodiversity is still the poor cousin to climate change in terms of coverage, and whether media outlets are ever legitimate targets of climate change protestors.
We also talked about what ‘quality’ means in terms of environment journalism, whether or not overdramatic stories erode public faith in science, and what the future holds for media coverage of the environment.
We could have talked for hours, but had just 60 minutes to pick through these and other topics. You can watch the full discussion here: