South African media trained on climate change reporting

How do we make climate change topical for the media? Can journalists craft powerful human interest stories that link climate change to people’s daily lives and concerns, and help reach a broader audience? It is with these questions in mind that the ACRP organised 3 Climate Change Reporting Skills trainings for the media in South Africa.

In partnership with the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) and Ecoforum Africa, a plateform dedicated to growing a green media scene in Africa,  ACRP held Climate Change Reporting Skills workshops in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, South Africa on 7, 8 and 9 March 2017.  These workshops were open to practitioners across print, radio, television and online media, with a focus on community media. They intended to:

  • Equip media practitioners to fully understand, interpret and accurately report on the reality of climate change, from economic, social, political and environmental perspectives.
  • Encourage more journalists to write about climate change, talk about it through storytelling on various platforms available in different languages and facilitate more discussions around and about climate change.
  • Contribute to the creation of an active and diverse network of empowered “eco-media” in South Africa.

This first round of workshops allowed ACRP to train 37 people from community and national media, communication agencies and environmental organisations on topics and skills needed to produce quality, engaging content on climate change-related issues. The sessions covered  the science of climate change, based on The Climate Reality Project‘s presentation; the impact of Climate Change in different environments; understanding how and where research is done; fact-checking strategies; feature writing and craft skills; shaping facts into powerful human interest stories.

Two renowned and experienced journalists took the participants on a journey through the science of climate change and the art of storytelling. Mandi Smallhorne, a Climate Reality Leader and the President of the South African Science Journalist Association, guided the participants through the science of climate change and research methodologies. A social media and storyteller expert, Gus Silber trained them to shape facts into powerful human interest stories.

“It was great working with mixed groups of journalists and environmental activists”, said Gus Silber. The workshops turned out to be highly interactive and gave the participants an opportunity to share experience and learn from one another how to better reach out to a large public to inform & raise awareness on climate-related matters.  They were very responsive, many of them asking real questions about communicating the issues at hand. “I think they learned a lot from each other during the discussions. We made the point that all journalists are in some way activists, and therefore activists can just as much see themselves as journalists with stories to tell”.

The workshops have been eye-opening in terms of how many stories can be produced under the broad umbrella of climate change, and how they can be made relevant and engaging for as broad an audience as possible, on multiple media platforms and channels.

Each participant was invited to pitch a story that she/he would like to produce and try to get published, whether as a article, radio report, or multimedia post. Some  really good story angles came out of the pitching sessions. “We were impressed with the quality of the story ideas, which were fresh and original, and strongly local as well as global in their angles and implications”, commented Mandi Smallhorne. A couple of the participants even went as far as writing full stories during the sessions, which proves how keen they are to get their stories out there!

The feedback from the participants was equally positive. “This workshop was very informative, very well presented, plus enjoyable. I have learned so much from your training that will assist me in my workplace. I came away from the workshop feeling so confident. Thanks for the new skills I now have”, wrote one of them.

ACRP is currently exploring the possibility of extanding this climate change reporting capacity building programme to other provinces – and countries. Increasing media coverage is expected to strengthen the impact of Climate Leaders’s efforts to raise public awareness and conversation about the reality of climate change, its impact on people’s lives and possible solutions.