Climate chang

The media could do more to help protect the environment, says Alex Morss


lthough attention is focused on the coronavirus pandemic, we should not forget the other crisis we are fighting – climate and ecological breakdown.

Is the media doing enough regarding its

roles and responsibilities in leading and challenging power via journalism, educating the public and influencing behaviour? And is it looking in the mirror at what it does? To find out, I canvassed journalists, media organisations and academics for their opinions. I also carried out a random search of a wide range of UK national and regional newspaper and magazine publishers’ digital output to identify their internal and external efforts and policies on the environment and also their investments. Both scientists and journalists are saying that, more than

ever, they need the resources that have been stripped away for years to create a diverse, well-funded media with sufficient numbers of trained staff to address environmental issues. My search highlighted mixed results on media-stated goals

regarding environmental policies and corporate environmental responsibility. Editorial output similarly varied in terms of its quality and quantity and the amount of resources channeled into environmental coverage. Many titles had no dedicated section for environmental reporting; some included it in science while others, including the BBC, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and some titles in the Mail group, had dedicated teams and sections, and set detailed environmental goals. The FT had climate as a banner section but not the environment. The Times’ web banner did not give prominence to science or the environment. The Guardian’s 130 million readers were told how much carbon they burned reading every digital article. A reader


of Guardian readers say the paper should campaign about climate change

Global news for the planet

COVERING Climate Now (CCN) was founded in the US in 2019. Its executive director Mark Hertsgaard said the driving force was that what “we knew of the climate crisis and its solutions had to improve, fast.’

12 | theJournalist Hertsgaard, an

environmental journalist, says it was feared that, without changes within the media, “there simply wouldn’t be sufficient public awareness and therefore political

pressure on governments and corporations. “A critical mass of

journalists knew our profession was failing on this story and they wanted to do better. “We thought if we could highlight this

survey found that 58 per cent of 3,598 respondents believed the paper should actively campaign about climate change. At The Sun, a full site search failed to find the terms ‘eco’,

‘environment’ or ‘planet’, but there was a section on ‘climate change and the environment’. I found two recent climate stories. The Daily Mirror gave little prominence to the environment

on my visit, and the Daily Express had gone 20 days without any environment news in a ‘Nature’ section which, in the past, has been populated by pets, with no obvious sign of sustainability stories. Express Newspapers is owned by Reach, which is Britain’s largest newspaper, magazine and digital publisher, whose 150-plus titles and 80-plus websites are read by 45 million people in the UK each month. The company had launched a #Do1Thing campaign in 2019 to engage readers and staff in saving the planet, but staff said this had gone somewhat limp amid Covid and redundancies. The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, UKTV, Sky and Netflix programmes follow Bafta’s guidance on auditing their sustainability in training and production. I reviewed a sample of staff handbooks and found one book publisher’s 90-plus page guidance failed to mention any environmental policy; this was also the case in a 20-page policy for a trade magazine and for a 50-page handbook for a financial publisher. A 40-page handbook for a religious publisher included one line committing the company ‘to be good stewards of our environment’. There was nothing in a travel magazine staff handbook either. A 32-page code of conduct for one big broadcaster stated only that ‘each of us must perform our jobs in a safe and environmentally responsible manner’. Some companies were not prepared to open their policies up to public scrutiny. A Reach journalist commened: “There has not been any training on science and environment, no specialist editors. The websites are all about hits. Having dedicated environment reporters would be a good commitment.”

critical mass, we could grow it, which is exactly what’s happened over the past 18 months.” CCN has 460 partners,

including news agencies, broadcasters, national newspapers and magazines, with a combined audience of roughly 2 billion people.

Among them are

Reuters, Bloomberg, Agence France Presse, The Guardian, the Daily Mirror, CBS News, NBC News, PBS NewsHour, Vice, Al Jazeera, Times of India, El Pais and Asahi Shimbun, There seems to be

little evidence on how people respond to news stories as citizens, voters and consumers, he says, However, he adds

that people around the world want more climate coverage, especially local stories and on how problems can be tackled.

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