WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALISM
Environmental journalism is the collection, verification, production, distribution and exhibition of information regarding current events, trends, issues and people that are associated with the non-human world with which humans necessarily interact. To be an environmental journalist, one must have an understanding of scientific language and practice, knowledge of historical environmental events, the ability to keep abreast of environmental policy decisions and the work of environmental organizations, a general understanding of current environmental concerns, and the ability to communicate all of that information to the public in such a way that it can be easily understood , despite its complexity.
Global Environmental Journalism Initiative
GEJI, the Global Environmental Journalism Initiative, is a project started in 2008 by four Australian and five European universities that are leaders in journalism education in their countries.
- International collaboration in the teaching and learning of journalism about environmental sustainability
- Students working together locally and globally to produce journalism about environmental sustainability
- The building of an international archive of research materials and reports on global environmental journalism
While the practice of nature writing has a rich history that dates back at least as far as the exploration narratives of Christopher Columbus, and follows tradition up through prominent nature writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the late 19th century, John Burroughs and John Muir in the early 20th century, and Aldo Leopold in the 1940s, the field of environmental journalism did not begin to take shape until the 1960s and 1970s.
The growth of environmental journalism as a profession roughly parallels that of the environmental movement, which became a mainstream cultural movement with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and was further legitimized by the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Grassroots environmental organizations made a booming appearance on the political scene in the 1960s and 1970s, raising public awareness of what many considered to be the “environmental crisis,” and working to influence environmental policy decisions. The mass media has followed and generated public interest on environmental issues ever since.
The field of environmental journalism was further legitimized by the creation of the Society of Environmental Journalists in 1990, whose mission “is to advance public understanding of environmental issues by improving the quality, accuracy, and visibility of environmental reporting.” Today, academic programs are offered at a number of institutions to train budding journalists in the rigors, complexity and sheer breadth of environmental journalism.
Environmental journalists are expected to be advocates for changes to improve the quality of the planet. They should educate people about the serious state of the environment and use the power of the news media to bring about changes to improve the quality of the air, water, wildlife and natural resources.
Trying to convince people about the importance of protecting the environment sometimes falls on deaf ears, in India and all around the world. Many people are simply not interested; society tends to assume that things like land, trees, plants, animals, and water resources – the resources they depend upon for their livelihoods – will always be there. Overuse or abuse of resources is not, most of the times, an important issue. But catching audiences’ attention is not the only hard thing environmental journalists have to face. Writing about the environment as a core issue for society sets numerous challenges for journalists. These are:-
- Lack of environmental and scientific training. Reporters without specialized training might ignore complicated environmental stories altogether or, if they attempt them, the results might be less than satisfactory for readers.
- Limited access to governmental data on environmental conservation.
- The existence of forest mafias threatens their professional activities as well as their private lives.
- Wildlife journalists have to balance the incongruity that comes as a produce of the short attention span that is affecting news consumers in a society that unfolds around consumerism combined with the fact that environmental stories are frequently complex and difficult to report.
- Citizens’ experiences of many environmental issues are mediated, in large part, by the interests of governmental agencies as well as the private sector (big corporations). These two spheres continually influence the media’s presentation of environmental issues putting at stake public perceptions.
- In recent years, it seems as though media interest in the environment has taken a backseat to other issues impacting the international scenario. Wildlife journalists have to deal with the priority of other subjects such as terrorism, poverty, economy, politics, and international relations.
- Journalists have to face the lack of training, resources or support from news editorials or sponsors.
The recognition of these challenges and a solution to them will impact the creation of a collective dialogue and deliberation on environmental issues that are of broad public concern.
Environmental journalism falls within the scope of environmental communication, and its roots can be traced to nature writing. One key controversy in environmental journalism is a continuing disagreement over how to distinguish it from its allied genres and disciplines.
The field of environmental journalism covers a wide variety of topics. According to ‘The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook’, environmental journalists perceive water concerns as the most important environmental issue, followed by atmospheric air pollution concerns, endocrine disruptors, and waste management issues. The journalists surveyed were more likely to prioritize specific, local environmental issues than global environmental concerns.
- Ham, Sam. Environmental Interpretation: A Practical Guide for People with Big Ideas and Small Budgets.
- West, Bernadette M., M. Jane Lewis, Michael R. Greenburg, David B. Sachsman, and Renée M. Rogers. The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook.
· Blum, Deborah, Robin Marantz Henig, and Mary Knudson. A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers.
- Chapman, Graham, Keval Kumar, Caroline Fraser, and Ivor Gaber. Environmentalism and the Mass Media..
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