Following the recent  global journalism congress in Auckland, media experts call for better and clearer climate change reporting across regional and international media services.

Journalists and other media professionals gathered at the World Journalism Education Congress in New Zealand to analyse the current media landscape in the Asia-Pacific region. According to their recent discussions, that took place in the past few weeks, climate change needs to be better reported and taken more seriously by the region’s media outlets.

Speakers, panelists and attendees agree that awareness is fundamental but without depth of understanding there cannot be a significant progress. To move forward, journalists identified a few elements that are currently lacking and that would improve climate change reporting.

Jose Maria Carlos, editor for CNN Philippines, said that climate change news need to feature “people stories”, to improve and raise awareness on the matter. “That is identifying families or individuals who have done something to deal with the impact of climate change,” he said to Asia Pacific Report. “Your viewers are people, and they’re interested in people.”  

However, “people stories” need to be accessible. Scientific jargon and language barriers are often the main ingredients of climate change news, making it harder for people to internalise and relate to them. Using regional dialect as well as less scientific terms would thus improve the current reporting.  “If you are targeting fishermen or families in the coastal areas in the Philippines you won’t use English,” Carlos said. “You have to use their dialect so they will understand what climate change is all about and how they can deal with it.”

Experts from Samoa and Indonesia also agreed on the fact that the issue needs to be kept “young” and fresh. Including the youth, which will most likely be affected by the consequence of a changing climate, would be one of the best ways of doing so. “Having that new voice in the media, they would of course progress this and take this to the next generation,” said Misa Viky Lepou, head of media and communications and the National University of Samoa.

Overall, media professionals agree that the media can influence the discussion on and awareness of climate change. “Only media can keep society on their toes,” said Dr Hermin Indah Wahyuni of Gadja Mada University in Indonesia. These suggestions are thus a way forward which, if fully implemented, could deepen the understanding of climate change among the public and other potential stakeholders.

Climate change will be one of the key topics of our conference in Montréal this September, where we will be talking about the relationship between climate change and public media.