In recent years, there has been an increased interest in climate journalism and reporting in Africa, but despite the interest, newsrooms and publications have been slow in their response to the climate crisis with others seemingly choosing to focus on dominating topics such as politics, international affairs and financial news. But how we can get climate reporting into newsrooms?

“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and it has been gaining increasing attention from the media in recent years. Journalists have a crucial role to play in informing the public about the impacts of climate change, the actions being taken to address it, and the policies that are being implemented to mitigate its effects. There is no doubt that journalists are interested in reporting on the climate. Many journalists have made it their mission to cover climate change and its impacts regularly. This is evident in the increasing number of news stories, features, and documentaries that are being produced daily,” says Rosette Gladys Nandutu, a journalist and green advocate for social justice and climate action at VIDEA.

Climate reporting is defined as “the timely collection of climate-related data and also sharing it with relevant stakeholders/ communities to stay informed and sensitised on the potential impacts and solutions to be upscaled through mitigation and adaptation”, says Sandra Musonzah, founder of the Youth Climate Leadership Initiative (YCLIEN). She explains that “climate reporting entails the timely sharing of relevant climate change information particularly to enlighten the communities on the varied climate-related events, their impact and how to collaboratively mitigate and adapt to the present/future climate risks”.

Nandutu says that “climate reporting raises awareness about the urgent need for action to address climate change, by providing accurate and up-to-date information about the state of the climate, journalists and other media professionals can help to educate the public about the risks and opportunities associated with climate change. This can help to build support for policies and actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable development”.

Secondly, “climate reporting holds policymakers and other decision-makers accountable for their actions on climate change. By reporting on the actions and statements of governments, businesses, and other organisations, journalists can help to ensure that they are held accountable for their commitments to address climate change. This can help to promote transparency and accountability in the global response to climate change and ensure that progress is made towards a more sustainable future,” says Nandutu.

Is climate reporting adequate in Africa? 

“Climate reporting in Africa is a complex issue that requires attention. While there are some efforts to report on climate-related events, the coverage is not adequate,” says Nandutu. The lack of resources and infrastructure in many African countries makes it difficult to gather accurate information about climate-related events. The lack of resources means that many journalists are not trained in climate reporting, which can lead to inaccurate or incomplete coverage she says. Additionally, the media tends to focus on short-term events rather than long-term trends, which can lead to a lack of understanding about the severity of climate change and the need for action to address it.

The lack of resources and infrastructure, as well as the focus on short-term events, make it difficult to gather accurate information about climate-related events. To address this issue Nandutu says more resources need to be allocated to climate reporting, and journalists need to be trained in climate reporting. Additionally, the media needs to focus on long-term trends rather than short-term events to increase awareness about the severity of climate change.

However, Musonzah says climate reporting in Africa is adequate “looking at the growing number of climate-related media platforms, practitioners, climate activists and the development of grassroots/local organisations actively rewriting the climate narrative and fighting the inequalities through climate justice. The enlisted group has been playing a crucial role in promoting climate reporting thus improving the quality of climate change reportage”. She explains that; “Africa’s climate reporting has been focusing on rewriting the narrative of how Africa can tackle climate change by leveraging their natural resources to mitigate the current loss and damage”. Musonzah adds that “African journalists have been actively countering the myth that Africans are simply blaming Western countries for climate change to get access to financial means/aid. Storytellers have been adequately advocating for the unpopular statement to self-fund to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts as we await the loss and damage replication funds”.

She says that the climate reporting in Africa has been informing communities especially the most affected by climate change, connecting them with local experts for possible solutions, and providing inspiration for ways to cope and adapt. Importantly the importance of community reporting to this end, the communities have been opportune to learn broader approach to climate solutions through the varied climate change reporting stories being documented on how people are responding to problems in meaningful ways or reliance on nature-based solutions. The journalist has been actively forwarding the motion of getting the communities to advocate for policy change through the power of education on climate reporting.

Climate reporting in Africa is still facing various challenges, and there is room for improvement says Mumbi Mutuko, freelancer with Nairobi Law Monthly. “However we should acknowledge the notable efforts and dedicated journalists telling impeccable stories and covering climate conversation in Africa. But overall, the quantity and quality of climate reporting can be inadequate. The dominance of other pressing news stories, such as politics, and tough economic times has seen stories about climate change receiving less attention in the media. However, with the increasing recognition by African governments of the vulnerability to climate change and its potential for sustainable development, there is a growing need for enhanced climate reporting to address these challenges effectively,” says Mutuko.

How can we get climate reporting into newsrooms?

“Climate reporting in newsrooms should be prioritised as a topic and allocating dedicated resources to cover climate change and environmental issues. This includes hiring specialised reporters or creating beat positions for climate journalists. Training programmes and workshops can be organised to enhance journalists’ understanding of climate science, policies, and impacts. Media organisations need to work with universities and colleges offering journalism courses to train students looking to come into the media sector early enough. That way the skills are developed early on and not when someone lands a job in the newsroom,” says Mutuko.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and media organisations must prioritise its coverage, says Nandutu. She provides practical ways how to get climate reporting into newsrooms.

  • Firstly, it is important to ensure that reporters and editors are educated on the topic. This can be achieved by providing training sessions, workshops and seminars on climate change and its impact. Secondly, media organisations can collaborate with climate experts and scientists to provide accurate and up-to-date information. Finally, newsrooms should make a conscious effort to prioritise climate reporting, by dedicating more airtime and column inches to the issue. To begin with, educating reporters and editors on climate change is crucial. This can be done by providing training sessions, workshops and seminars on the topic. By doing so, journalists can gain a better understanding of the science behind climate change, as well as the social and economic impacts. This will enable them to report on the issue with greater accuracy and depth. Additionally, media organisations can provide resources such as fact sheets, infographics and data sets to help journalists better understand the issue.
  • Collaborating with climate experts and scientists is another key step in getting climate reporting into newsrooms. Media organisations can work with these experts to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the issue. This will help journalists to better understand the science behind climate change, as well as the latest research and findings. By doing so, newsrooms can provide their audiences with reliable and trustworthy information on the issue. Finally, newsrooms should prioritise climate reporting by dedicating more airtime and column inches to the issue. This can be achieved by assigning reporters to cover climate change on a full-time basis, or by creating a dedicated climate reporting team.
  • Additionally, newsrooms can make a conscious effort to include climate change in their daily news agenda, by covering stories related to the issue regularly. In conclusion, getting climate reporting into newsrooms requires a concerted effort from media organisations. By educating reporters and editors, collaborating with climate experts and scientists, and prioritising climate reporting, newsrooms can provide their audiences with accurate and up-to-date information on one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Musonzah says that newsrooms and news publications “should package their reports ensuring that they are practically relevant and reflects the community realities. It is important to make use of appropriate visual (pictures, diagrams) appearance and ensure to capture the voices of the affected to share their stories and experience”. She suggests that media organisations work with content creators to make climate data entertaining as they can leverage current trending social media to package climate content to be relevant with trends this enables newsrooms to have an interest in interviewing trending challenges on TikTok and Twitter, says Musonzah.

“Climate reporting needs forward-thinking dialogues discussion to be able to be streamed in newsrooms, and a selection of interviewees with forward-thinking of what Africans do meanwhile we look for the West to repay us rather than buttress on what we want or should be done with reparation,” says Musonzah. Explaining that “the newsroom should push for the unpopular African narrative which speaks on self-dependence for us to tackle climate-related impacts.  To set the tone in the newsroom, media organisations should influence climate policy change through practical recommendations to stakeholders. Another critical aspect is that, while calls for climate action are often directed at the government, it is high time to acknowledge that African governments have been policy leaders”.

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