There are a few nagging issues editors raise when talking about their climate change coverage and plans for 2022: audience interest and engagement remains relatively low and there is a gap between what audiences want, and what newsrooms are delivering. Coverage is expensive and it is a challenge to maintain the pre-COP26 momentum, despite the urgent need.
These observations, from a discussion with members of the World Editors Forum Board, are backed up by the latest report from RISJ, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022. This month the RISJ kicked off its Oxford Climate Journalism Network – a new programme to help journalists and support newsrooms in their work around climate change.
“As the impact of climate change becomes more pressing, the news industry remains uncertain about how to deal with this complex and multi-faceted story,” writes report author Nic Newman.
“News editors say it is hard to get mainstream audiences to take notice of a story that moves slowly and can often make audiences feel depressed. In turn, this means it’s hard to make the case to hire the necessary specialist journalists to explain and bring it to life.”
Only a third of those surveyed (34%) rated general coverage as good, even if they felt their own coverage (65%) was better.
The survey respondents highlighted six key barriers to better coverage:
- The slow nature of developments makes it a poor fit with a fast-paced news cycle.
- Audiences are put off by the depressing outlook, leading to feelings of powerlessness.
- There is a lack of money to hire specialist journalists who can explain the science.
- Original coverage is expensive as it often involves travel to far-off places.
- The story is very complex (CO2 emissions, biodiversity, etc.) with no easy solutions.
- Pressure exerted from owners and advertisers, not yet aligned with required changes.
These challenges will be unpacked at WAN-IFRA’s Global eSummit on Journalism and the Climate Crisis, taking place on 22nd and 23 February. Registration is free.
Journalists, editors, trainers and thought leaders will share ideas and solutons to overcome the barriers and better tell the story of our planet’s crisis.
RISJ’s report predicts 2022 will bring:
- More scientific expertise in newsrooms, partly due to collaboration with academic and scientific institutions and also the integration of climate change as a theme across beats
- Constructive and accessible coverage and a move away from a catastrophic narrative
- Collaboration and joint projects to overcome resource constraints
- More focus and debate on impartiality – and whether journalists should actively campaign for solutions or just report on them.