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FEATURE: CDKN-backed Southern journalists spread the word about climate change

Stories about climate change reached 35 million more people than they otherwise might have, thanks to the efforts of three CDKN-sponsored journalists. Lorenzo Morales of Semana Online, Colombia, Faisal Raza Khan of Dawn TV, Pakistan, and Armsfree Ajanaku of The Guardian, Nigeria, between them produced 32 TV, print and online reports for seven media outlets after being awarded fellowships from the Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP). The CCMP enabled them to attend the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) climate meeting in Durban, where they received briefings, went on field trips to a coastal management scheme and community reforestation project, and received editorial guidance and feedback from dedicated CCMP editors.

The CCMP is a joint project of Panos London, Internews and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). To date, it has provided 170 fellowships for journalists to report on the annual COPs that take place under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In 2011, it awarded fellowships to 19 journalists selected from more than 300 applicants; CDKN then chose three of those to become CDKN climate change fellows. CDKN’s overarching aim in providing grants was to ensure developing-country voices are heard within global debates on development and climate change issues.

After attending the COP, which took place between 28 November and 9 December 2011, the CDKN climate change fellows agreed that the mentoring programme had enhanced their reporting skills and made it easier for them to get climate change stories published. Faisal went on to launch a new magazine, Economic Affairs, which included a 15-page section on climate and the environment; Armsfree is now given the majority of environmental assignments by his newsdesk; and Lorenzo was invited by Brazilian organisation to participate in field trips to visit projects under-represented in the international media.

[Attending the CCMP] helped me put my country situation in context, and compare it to other countries with similar or totally different vulnerabilities,” Lorenzo explained. “I teach journalism in the university here and I would like to teach a course on environmental journalism. It would be a great opportunity to share all I’ve learned with other people.” Faisal has already begun spreading the word about what he learned through the CCMP. “I’m using my experience to help build the capacity of my fellow journalists across Pakistan,” he explained. “I’m travelling on my own to educate grassroots journalists working in deprived areas to highlight the environmental and climate change related issues on a regular basis.” Faisal and Armsfree both felt a CCMP network would be a good way to build on the momentum of the scheme in future. “We have started something together and we have to continue it, share experiences, stories and new research,” continued Faisal.

It was not only the fellows who learned from the 2011 CCMP experience. The organisers who monitored activity on the CCMP website during COP 17 noted that eight per cent of traffic was directed from Twitter, a significant increase on the previous year. Traffic from Facebook was also higher than in 2010. In feedback given following their participation in the CCMP, the 2011 fellows suggested that 2012 fellows should receive additional training in social-media skills. The final report Support for Climate Change Media Partnership – Durban COP 17 produced by Panos London suggested that increased usage of social networking would definitely be worth considering in the future. This would involve training the journalists in social-media skills and revamping the current CCMP website to promote greater interaction.

At a meeting in June to discuss lessons from the 2011 CCMP, staff from CDKN and Panos London agreed that social networking offered great potential. They also noted the value of inviting fellows on reporting trips before and after the conference, which Panos London arranged for the first time in 2011. Reporting from a trip before the conference gives the journalist authority when questioning negotiators at the COP, while a post-conference reporting trip allows the journalist to hone skills gained during the mentoring process. Another first in 2011 was that Panos London obtained direct commissions for the best fellows to write for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. The benefits of doing so were clear; as a result, six of the fellows had their work reach an additional quarter of a million readers in Europe.

You can see work produced by the 2011 CDKN climate-change fellows at: Their work will also be published in UNEARTH magazine, a new publication produced by MediaGlobal News, a non-profit media agency based in the United Nations.

Photo courtesy of PanosLondon, featuring CCMP fellow Armsfree Ajanaku of TheGuardian of Nigeria and Tim Williams from Panos London.

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