Journalists and their news organizations have been reporting about the climate or the environment for decades. In most cases, however, those stories are assigned to an environmental journalist. As well-written and essential as they are, those pieces often appear somewhere other than the main section of a newspaper or the top stories on a news media website.
As the topic of climate has gained more prominence, Meera Selva, deputy director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and Wolfgang Blau, a visiting fellow and advisory board member at the Institute, recognized an opportunity to help all journalists incorporate the climate issue into all their reporting and every news section, from politics to culture to sports. Together, they founded the Oxford Climate Journalism Network.
“Because climate change is a global issue, Wolfgang and I and our supporters wanted to create a program to help journalists and editors and publishers across the globe understand the climate issue in more depth, so it's at the top of mind when assigning and writing stories,” said Selva. At the time of the interview, she and Blau were attending COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
The Network received its initial funding from the European Climate Foundation (ECF), “a global leader in the transition to a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy.”
“When we received the Oxford Climate Journalism Network’s funding request, it convinced me as a long-time journalist because it truly focuses on what journalists and media organizations need and how they work,” said Eva-Maria McCormack, executive director of strategic communications at the ECF. “Making this program available to journalists everywhere was another attractive element, as climate — like the news — is a local issue first.”
The Oxford Climate Journalism Network has several program elements. First, any qualifying journalists in the world can utilize them for free to gain new insights about the climate issue and expand their coverage within any beat or news vertical. Second, employed or freelance journalists can apply to attend the Network’s six-month online course virtually. (Applications closed Nov. 15, 2021, for the first course.) The course requires the commitment of two one-hour sessions every month.
“Journalists are not the only news professionals who can benefit from our program,” said Blau. “It’s equally important editors and even publishers take advantage of our leadership element. With what they’ll learn, editors can help their journalists integrate climate into their stories while publishers can refocus their news outlet's mission to be the local voice of climate change.”
The Network is also offering Journalist Fellowships for experienced journalists at Oxford University, where they will have many opportunities to explore issues related to climate coverage. Another element of the Network’s program is original academic research in conjunction with the Institute and Oxford. Journalists and editors will have access to the research to learn more about who is reading climate-related news, through which channels they share it and whether they trust what they read.
“Reporting on the climate doesn’t have to be an apocalypse story,” said McCormack. “It is also a story of hope — of active citizenship, of technological and economic innovation and of transforming the way we live to be healthier and safer for more people. Plus, the eventual stabilization of the climate could be the biggest story of the century.”
For more information about the Oxford Climate Journalism Network, please visit: https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/about-the-oxford-climate-journalism-network
Bob Sillick has held many senior positions and served a myriad of clients during his 47 years in marketing and advertising. He has been a freelance/contract content researcher, writer, editor and manager since 2010. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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