Techniques for Developing Nations Perspective
Written By Chinenye Nwabueze
The mass media play information role in every society. Reporting environmental issues in the media draw attention of the public on such issues. Such reports could create the required awareness for achieving environmental protection objectives. Environmental reporting is an aspect of environmental communication which consists of gathering and writing news about the environment and publishing same through the media. It 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 necessity interact
The following tips provide a goal-oriented guide for effective environmental reporting (Nelson, 1995; Nwabueze, 2009). These strategies are relevant in green reporting in developing nations and other parts of the world.
1. Mind for Adventure: Often times, environmental stories yield interesting facts when reporters prose beyond the surface. The need to probe further requires reporters to be ready to get to any length to thoroughly investigate a story. Mind for adventure takes you to the root of an environmental issue, for instance finding out remote reasons why a mudslide, landslide or rockslide incident occurred without early warnings to the victims.
This also has to do with the need for a reporter to have investigative instinct. This means a reporter should already be ready to follow leads. This is because leads open doors to exciting and information investigative reports.
2. Eye for the unusual: When you look beyond the surface, you see the unusual. For instance, an entire nation may be applauding the government for establishing garment industries in same states which created jobs for the unemployed. But an eye for the unusual provides details of environmental risks posed by these factories the implications of which could outweigh the perceived gains of establishing the factories. An eye for the unusual helps in determining implications of various news events on the environment.
3. Understanding Environmental Issues, concepts and Jargons: Such issues as global warming, climate change, green house effects, thinning of ozone hole etc. would be difficult to report without understanding what these concepts mean and what the issues are about. The environmental reporter needs to do some research from time to time to understanding the meaning of environmental issues and concepts in order to know what to report, where to search for answers and angles to focus on. Journalists specialized in this field could work with experts on environment such as environmentalists, weather experts, researchers on environment, and people that studied environmental disciplines. This relationship could provide a platform for getting explanations to environmental issues, concept and jargons.
4. Learn Effective Interview Skills: The ability to ask probing questions is an invaluable skill in environmental reporting. Stories are enriched with facts acquired through effective interview. The time a reporter has with news sources could be very short. There is every need to make good use of that time by asking the right questions in the right manner. Experts on the environment, environmental disaster victims, including government officials could provide revealing information through effective interviewing.
5. Good writing skills: Good stories make no impact when told the wrong way. The basic essence of every kind of reporting is to communicate. A poorly written story will definitely “murder” a thoroughly investigated environmental story. Every reporter should learn the basic writing skills, including how to write simple, easy to understand sentences, and how to ensure good sentence and paragraph transition. The appropriate writing style should be adopted to pass a message across. If an earthquake happened, tell the audience that an earthquake happened. Don’t try to play to the gallery by attempting to overload a sentence or paragraph with irrelevant facts because you witnessed the event.
6. Consider the target audience: One of the distinguishing qualities associated with good reporting is ability to write with the audience in mind. You are reporting to the general public, not to environmental experts who understand puzzling jargons and concept associated with the environment. This is why adoption of the simple style is essential in environmental reporting. People need to understand what global warming means in simple terms or how an incident contributes to climate change. One of the factors that militate against environmental risk communication is difficulty in understanding scientific jargons and calculations (Nwabueze, 2007, p. 168). This buttresses the postulation that if an environmental reporter writes without considering the audience, the message will not be meaningfully received. As Friedman (cited in Terravoce Project (2002) observes, studies have shown that most journalists avoid explaining technical details and relative risks in their stories. This means the journalist needs to first understand environmental concepts and jargons so as to explain an issue to the audience in simple terms.
7. Cautiously Report Science, Scientific Observation and Statistics: You don’t report every claim in the field of science, especially associated with environment, as fact. This is why it is always good to ask further questions as an environmental reporter. Tagbo (2010) writes that regular and accurate communication about climate change is the first step towards developing coping mechanisms in Africa. The reports should not only be regular but accurate. You don’t pounce on claims without at least making efforts to confirm them from relevant sources. This also applies to statistics. If the figures being quoted seem unrealistic to you, seek further clarifications from other sources. If for instance, a specific source says 500 thousand people were evacuated from an earthquake prone community when it seems people who live in the community may not be up to that figure, you need further confirmation from other credible sources. Nelson (1995) further suggests that statistics should be made more understandable by saying for instance “one-out-of-five people”, rather than “20 percent of the population”; or using analogies to further explain statistics by saying the total area affected by toxic waste emission is the size of a recognizable town (Enugu, Ogbomoso, or Birnin Kebbi) instead of only describing the affected areas in acres and hectares.
8. Attribution to credible sources is Vital: The sensitive nature of certain facts in environmental stories requires that sources should be credible and should be mentioned in stories. An environmental story could make far-reaching impact on the audience basically because of the source of the report. Warnings on impending earthquakes, landslides and such disasters could be heeded particular because of the source of such warnings. This means the environmental also has to have good and credible sources that provide rich facts for exciting environmental stories. Find a way of meaning mutually beneficially relationship with story-rich sources. They can provide cutting-edge leads even on seemingly dry days.
9. Knowledge of the Basic of New Reporting: This entails an understanding of the news values, elements and leads including various approaches to news presentation and forms of mass media writing. You may know what to investigate but what matters is to ensure that the event or issue is newsworthy. This is different from possession of good writing skills. An understanding of the news values will facilitate the application of other points or tips raised so far in this section. An environmental risk likely to affect 500 persons should receive more attention than an incident of noise pollution affecting a neighbourhood of about ten households. Basic journalism skills also entail balancing reports, adhering to professional ethics and other tenets of professionalism.
10. Stay on the story: This calls for follow-ups. Don’t just report an incident as a one-off story follow-up the story by providing reports on emerging facts on the same story. If earthquake takes place, after reporting the incident, continue with reports on relief packages for victims. Were these relief materials delivered? Was the fund for the relief materials partly embezzled? Are the victims faring in the camps where they are temporarily staying? Follow-ups could prove more interesting than the initial incident.
Environmental journalism is increasingly becoming a relevant part of every society in view of the overwhelming focus on green issues, in today’s world. One particular issue troubling the world today is global warming and every government is developing vital time to measures that would prevent climate change matters from getting worse. The issue of climate change is no longer in dispute as facts have emerged to show that weather patterns are changing, ocean levels are rising, many riverine communities are being washed away, there is intensification of desertification and there is need to regularly cover climate change issues to sensitize the public otherwise people, especially in developing societies will be caught unawares (Uduaghan, 2011; Tagbo, 2010). This further undercover the crucial role of environmental journalism contemporary society.