The global climate crisis is the biggest story of our times. Explaining the causes, identifying the solutions, investigating and holding those responsible to account, and telling the stories of the people impacted, has never been more important.
That’s why this September, with our partners at Falmouth University, we launched Reporting Earth. This first of its kind conference featured a diverse range of keynote speakers, experts in their fields, and students from around the world. We came together to teach, share and identify how we can empower not just climate journalists, but everyone with a stake in how this crisis is reported. For the first time we wanted to explore how we, as journalists, can equip ourselves with the best tools and methods available to combat the climate crisis.
Dr Huw Lewis-Jones and Professor Gail Whitmen set the tone with a clear call to action: for the journalists taking part to heed the lessons of the conference, to follow the science and to seek out new methods for reporting on the climate crisis. We also heard from Kate Du Pury, Nick Clark and Megan Darby.
Reporting Earth is more than just a news-industry conference. From the outset it was incredibly important to push the conversation forward in terms of what the future of climate reporting looks like. Over the four weeks leading up to the conference Fathm worked with five groups awarded Reporting Earth bursaries; workshopping a set of original ideas and turning them into the fleshed out proofs of concept that they would get to show off at the event.
Fathm CEO, Fergus Bell, says, “Working with such a diverse set of individuals and their ideas was an enormously humbling experience. Each of the bursary winners brought a unique perspective to the challenge of climate reporting and it was great to iterate on those ideas using our journalism focused design thinking processes.”
The process involved stakeholder mapping to ensure that primarily any solutions that were ideated remained relevant to their audience at all times. Identifying challenges in implementing the ideas allowed the concepts to be refined into something that could be managed within the timeframe and budget. Each group also created user journeys in order to test the ideas before moving forward.
The concepts presented by bursary awardees are:
A mobile magazine sent to readers over WhatsApp. Stories are based on image galleries and bullet point text to create an easily digestible source of news “on the go”. As WhatsApp is one of the most popular platforms in the Nile Basin region, the approach is to reach readers where they are. InfoNile focuses on the Nile Basin, where climate related stories around flooding and the building of dams can often be met with scepticism. InfoNile wants to provide a reliable source of information in an area where journalism is sometimes untrusted.
A film project centred around telling stories through the eyes of women impacted directly by the climate crisis. Accompanying the project is a selection of teachable “packs” that act as a guide to others who want to follow the same template. Pauline Blanchet’s pitch is “to provide female activists, journalists and filmmakers the skill set required to tell their stories of the climate crisis”.
A text-based interactive game based on the Twine gaming platform. Users are immersed in a real-life climate camp that has been documented by activists, and can navigate around the story in whatever way they choose. The group, led by Rhianna Ilube, planned to create an accompanying workshop that will allow others to follow the same process to create their own interactive, non-linear based climate games.
The Great Big Climate Map
An interactive map with clickable stories updated by local freelance journalists. This is a collaboration with local journalists from the areas affected by climate change to highlight stories and support fact checking that utilizes that expertise. Nadia Leigh-Hewitson who is leading the project says the solution is “A platform where real people can connect, share their stories and learn more about the climate issues we face regionally and as a whole world.”
Ashoka University – Grassroots Network
This group plans to reach rural communities across India to solicit incidences of local climate issues and share back information that could help those individuals. The plan is to use WhatsApp as the central mechanism for distribution. Beyond the initial concept they intend to use the incoming information to inform local politicians and policy makers about pressing environmental issues.
Climate change is not a single issue story, a minor story on the evening news or a nice-to-have element of general reporting. It is the story of our time. It emcompasses all fields and disciplines of journalism and as Fathm’s CEO, Fergus Bell, says, “it is time to integrate climate reporting into all journalism from covering business, economics, weather, race and politics.”