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What kind of coverage is missing in climate reporting?

Earlier this week I joined a panel on climate journalism organized by Climatebase for their fellowship program.

One of the questions I was asked was, “What kind of coverage or content do you think is missing in climate media?

I mentioned the importance of telling stories that resonate with target audiences. Preaching to the choir might be satisfying, but it may not contribute much to meaningful impact. Ultimately, there are likely key decision-makers who are outside “the choir” who need to be reached and engaged.

There are many ways to frame a climate story. It can be a health story, a finance story, a human interest story, or about wildlife conservation. I advised looking for intersectionality that cuts across topics to engage more people. In other words, going beyond preaching to the choir.

The second point is to remember that a climate story can be about solutions that inspire hope. It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom.

As science fiction writer Stan Robinson recently said in an exchange about his own work: “This isn’t a message of ‘doom’ but rather a message of ‘potential doom if we don’t act.’ There’s still time to act.”

I also put this in the context of news avoidance. A recent Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism survey found that nearly 40% of people say they actively avoid the news. Notably, among self-identified news avoiders, a healthy share said they still read positive news and solutions-oriented news.

Another question I was asked was about the value of working with a network of writers and content creators around the world: “Can you discuss the importance and the value of focusing on local environmental stories? What is the value of telling environmental stories from all parts of the world to an audience that may be far away from the story?

Narrative is important for engaging audiences, and a key component of narrative is finding characters for readers to connect with.

Local journalists are invaluable in this regard, as they uncover compelling individual stories that highlight the global relevance of local events and issues.

A common example of how this manifests comes from reporting about product supply chains. In places like Europe or the United States, nearly all of us consume products that directly affect ecosystems, but this connection can often feel intangible. By showing how our morning coffee or dinner choice impacts Indigenous communities or wildlife in Indonesia or the Amazon, it puts a face on our consumption.

Another benefit of working with local contributors is how they can contribute to a bigger picture story. It can start with journalists around the world reporting on what they are seeing on the ground, which provides evidence of a broader, high-level trend that is relevant to global business leaders, politicians, and the general public.

For context, Mongabay works with several hundred contributing journalists in nearly 80 countries.

By Rhett Ayers Butler

Rhett Ayers Butler is the Founder and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. He started Mongabay in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.