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environmental reporting ngers? Newsquest, which publishes more than 200 regional titles


and whose websites are visited by 30 million people a month, gives full details of its environmental policy. This variation in commitment seems to reflect wider


society. The Guardian reported on a 2019 study of almost 3,000 publicly listed companies that found fewer than one in five (18 per cent) had disclosed plans that were in line with the targets in the Paris climate agreement. However, some are leading the charge. Wolfgang Blau, a research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, is working with experts globally to create training programmes to support journalists to cover climate competently. He said: “While covering climate change requires basic


scientific knowledge, climate change is far more than a science story or a topic only for the politics or the business desk. The climate crisis is changing tourism, culture, architecture, medicine, transportation, agriculture, food and even sports. “Today’s climate journalism has similarities with the technology journalism of the early 2000s, when a few digital experts in each newsroom tried to cover the transformative effects of the internet on all areas of society. The accelerating climate emergency requires a similar upskilling of newsrooms now.” There is evidence that knowledge gaps in the media are affecting conservation too. Endangered bats have been persecuted in some countries due to “reaction born out of misplaced fear” and misinformation because of the origin of Covid-19, says Lisa Worledge, head of conservation at the Bat Conservation Trust. Following several culls of the Mauritian fruit


bat in 2019, research fellow Ewan Macdonald at the University of Oxford checked 700 claims in 90 news articles and found only five per cent relied solely on verifiable facts . He said that most contained false information. He is researching how the


less cuddly species get a much harder time in the media: “Many people have a preference for large, charismatic and often rare species such as tigers, lions and elephants. However, it is equally important to protect the myriad small, obscure species that garner less attention but are fundamental to ecosystem functioning.” Adam Hart, author and professor of science


theJournalist | 13


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There’s been no training on science and environment, no specialist editors. The websites are all about hits


communication at the University of Gloucestershire, says: “I study the bugs no one loves – spiders, flying ants, wasps – and every year it is the same merry-go-round of nonsense in the popular media. Spiders are invading our homes, wasps are ruining summer, even harmless jellyfish are forming hostile armadas. “It is an uphill struggle against the surefire clickbait story of dangerous wildlife. When people are bombarded with simple messages confirming their pre-existing biases, those aspects of nature that aren’t cute and cuddly end up being demonised and despised. It may be actively harmful.” He adds that the media’s coverage of trophy hunting, led


by celebrities and campaigners, could prove harmful to the conservation of species and habitats over millions of acres. He argues that trophy hunting can preserve natural habitats. There may be some hope for the funding of environmental and climate change reporting. A House of Lords communications and digital committee report, Breaking News? The Future of UK Journalism, has called for urgent action and a new digital markets unit to be set up to help fund the UK media and this is expected to be launched in April 2021. With luck, any extra resources may find their way to environmental coverage.


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