Editors' Consultation Eyes Climate Change

Aug 82008

What help do journalists want when they cover climate change and development? And what do leaders who help shape global policies on climate change say is the media’s role?

To find out, the International Center for Journalists' Knight International Journalism Fellowships and The Energy and Resources Institute brought journalists and climate-change leaders together at an Editors' Consultation in New Delhi on Saturday, Feb. 9.

The experts at the discussion and the main points they made:

  • Yvo de Boer, the United Nation’s top climate change official. He said the role of the media was as conscience-keepers of the political process by making it open to the public.

  • Rajendra K. Pachauri, head of the Nobel Prize-winning International Panel on Climate Change. Pachauri, who also heads TERI, said democracy needs grassroots momentum to bring about change. To achieve this, journalists must clearly explain the scientific realities behind climate change so people can understand the need for action.

  • Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to the United Nations Secretary General. Sachs said media should focus on solutions and not exclusively on problems. He said this is a way to get people to think about what they can do about climate change and not tune out because they think the problem is insurmountable.

  • Chandrashekar Dasgupta, a member of the Indian Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change. Dasgupta said the media should provide consistent coverage of the issues, for example by examining the impact each aspect of economic developments will have on the environment.

The media representatives included editors and senior journalists who make the crucial decisions at the frontline of daily coverage, and reporters on the environment beat. Among them were the chiefs of the Delhi bureau of Mint, a financial daily published by The Wall Street Journal and The Hindustan Times, and The Tribune; the Delhi editor of the Hindi-language Hari Bhoomi; the senior journalist overseeing environment coverage at the Hindi-language Dainik Bhaskar; the science editor of NDTV, India’s biggest 24-hour news channel; the associate editor overseeing environment coverage at the Indo-Asian News Service; the economics editor of the United News of India wire service, who also is vice president of a professional organization, the Forum of Financial Writers; and the environment reporter of Businessworld weekly magazine.

During the roundtable discussion moderated by Knight International Journalism Fellow Arul Louis, the journalists outlined some of the problems they face covering the impact of climate change, such as the difficulty finding experts to talk about specific issues on deadline and access to data. Among their suggestions:

  • Developing fact sheets on the latest environment issues that journalists can access on deadline

  • Creating and maintaining a compilation of climate-change and environment terms, including economic and political terms, and their definitions, which would be available in English and Indian languages.

  • Putting together a database of experts available to speak on deadline about climate change and environment issues

  • Training on how to use India’s Right to Information Act to pry information from reluctant government agencies

Pachauri, whose TERI is hosting the Knight International Journalism Fellowships project in India, has asked that development of the database, a glossary that can be translated into Indian languages and updatable fact sheets on climate change issues be part of the Fellowships program. Louis, the Fellow, will address these requests as part of an E-newsroom project.

The consultation was held on the sidelines of TERI's annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, which brought together people at the forefront of the climate change battle. They ranged from Prime Ministers and policymakers to scientists and activists.

Go to Arul Louis' blog to read more about the Editors’ Consultation.