Climate change in Africa: a guidebook for journalists

News, 16 January 2014
IIED authors have contributed to a new UNESCO publication to support African journalists as they get to grips with what will be a defining feature of all of our lives, our changing climate.
A new UNESCO publication will support African journalists to tackle climate change issues (Photo credit: Internews / Brice Rimbaud)

A new UNESCO publication will support African journalists to tackle climate change issues (Photo: Internews/Brice Rimbaud)

Journalists there have critical roles to play in explaining the cause and effects of climate change, in describing what countries and communities can do to adapt to the impacts ahead, and in reporting on what governments and companies do, or do not do, to respond to these threats.

Yet research on public understanding of climate change and surveys of journalists reveals that across Africa the media can and should do more to tell the story of climate change. The new book aims to help fill this important gap.

The book, produced for UNESCO by IIED and Internews, covers the knowledge, skills and resources journalists need to report on climate change in ways that are relevant to their audiences.

"Climate change is not the story – it is the context in which so many other stories will unfold," says co-author Mike Shanahan of IIED. "It will affect every beat of journalism, from politics and business reporting to consumer and health stories. African journalists and their editors should not see climate change as 'just an environment' issue but as a new reality that will create growing demand from audiences for comprehensive, clear and locally-relevant coverage."

Speaking about why Internews was involved in the book, James Fahn, Executive Director of InternewsEarth Journalism Network, says: "The great challenge for journalists is to learn how to turn this global issue into a local story their audiences can relate to… or rather, how to turn it into many stories. The all-encompassing nature of climate change lends itself to reporting from a multitude of angles, reflecting its impact on so many facets of society, the economy and life in general."

The authors consulted 44 journalists from 17 African countries and 38 climate-change specialists, who provided their insights into what was missing from African media coverage and how this book should help to fill those gaps.

"This guidebook is part of UNESCO's overall effort to raise awareness of the interdisciplinary core of climate change, and how journalists can reflect that in their practices," says Fackson Banda, UNESCO programme specialist responsible for the project.

"At the heart of this publication is a push for the type of climate expertise needed to resonate with African journalists and journalism educators – two important constituents for our work on capacity-building for specialized journalistic literacies."

Download Climate change in Africa: a guidebook for journalists.

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