Experts give insights on effective, ethical environmental reporting


By Shanelle Khalasawi

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories coming out of a recent meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Philadelphia.

Environmental reporting experts at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Philadelphia discussed how to report on climate in a more productive way.

Allen Arthur, the engagement director at Solutions Journalism Network, emphasized the need to avoid negative sentiments while engaging in the climate crisis dialogue to promote engagement in community-based activities.

Angela Evans, a climate network manager also at Solutions Journalism Network, concurred. Evoking negative emotions “reduced intentions” to take action by the audience, she said.

The panelists advised journalists to prioritize ethics and empathy to cultivate a sense of shared responsibility for the planet. Arthur recommends “focusing on shared values” and avoiding stereotypes as key strategies for building trust and connecting with audiences.

They also highlighted the importance of reporting on solutions and progress, rather than solely identifying problems.

The keynoters discussed the impact of narratives on readers and the importance of framing stories to align with the readers’ core values. They noted that the way an audience processes information is directly impacted by how much empathy is elicited.

These experts suggested seeking restorative justice. That concept brings people together who have been affected by a shared wrongdoing, Evans says. That heals relationships and mitigates future problems.

Attendees of the conference also learned about asset-framing, an idea which involves “defining people by their aspirations and contributions before denoting their challenges,” said Evans. This allows people to appreciate others based on how they benefit society instead of on their shortcomings.

Effective reporting is crucial for increasing awareness and inspiring meaningful action, the speakers said. Equipping journalists with the tools, resources and knowledge to gather in-depth research and access reliable data is important, they said. It empowers the media to play a vital role in combating climate change.

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