Many journalists face challenges in covering climate change issues. These range from difficulties in accessing scientists to speak with to climate change language being too technical. Both make it harder for journalists to understand and correctly relay the message to the public.
This is partly because their capacities have not been enhanced to receive and dissect climate change-related information from an ordinary person’s perspective.
So, GGGI Uganda together with UNDP and FCDO took the step to organize and build the capacities of journalists on CoP27, climate change, green growth and Uganda’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution. A team of 15 journalists has undergone two training sessions at the British Council – noted for its green building credentials (lots of natural light and ventilation for a start)!
Grounded in climate change reporting
The training sessions, which closed on 6th December but will resume next year, were premised on strengthening participating journalists’ reporting skills on climate change and environment-related issues. They were asked to position themselves in the climate change space to grow professionally and keep afloat.
“There are many stories fighting for space in the newsroom. We have to be on top of our game as climate change journalists. What will make your story a good story, with a top priority in the eyes of the newsroom editor?” media trainer Jan Ajwang said during one of the sessions.
The journalists were urged to use multiple elements of media including graphics, data, photos, video and audio when reporting stories.
Dr. Ronald McGill encouraged journalists to write easy-to-understand stories. “How do we get people to change actions that accelerate climate change,” Dr. Ronald called on the journalists to reflect on their writing skills so that people will enjoy reading ‘good copy’.
Dissecting complex information
When it comes to dealing with scientific information, especially reporting about climate-related statistics and scientific data, with many figures, Jan Ajwang urged journalists to use digital tools and multiple platforms. This helps to break down the information for readers to more easily grasp what is being reported.
Jan advised the journalists with key elements that will make their articles stand out and get to be prioritized in the newsroom. The role of sympathetic editors is important here!
Mr. Alex Crook the East Africa climate change and energy lead at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office urged the journalists to enhance value-added news, information and knowledge. “Journalists have an important role to play. Climate mitigation and adaptation innovations are taking place in the country. How can you better sensitize the public about these innovations? Creating a general awareness among the public is important and we can do this by keeping the public well-informed,” he stated.
Develop talent beyond training
Dr. Ronald McGill urged journalists to develop their talents beyond their training because they have an important role to play in Uganda. “We should fight the institutional inertia that has affected the country’s progress,” he said. This was specifically in relation to urban development, its management and the fact that over 60 percent of the urban population lives in informal (or unplanned) locations. More generally, he urged journalists to use the information and skills they had learned to further their profession by filing climate-related stories that are engaging to the general public.
The journalists who benefited from the training included those from Vision Group, Next Medi, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, The Government Citizen Interaction Centre, Uganda Radio Network, Nation Media Group and the Independent. Those online were from the North and North-eastern regions.