Pacific journalists receive climate change reporting skills

Rikamati Naare and Verenaisi Raicola, Fellows in APJC’s Reporting Climate Change and the Environment program 2011 are interviewed for Radio Australia.

Published 26/10/2011


Climate change poses an immediate threat to countries in the Pacific as they struggle to adapt to sea level rise and increased drought.

The region’s media has a vital role to play in helping communities deal with these changes.

Australia’s Asia Pacific Journalism Centre has brought a group of Pacific journalists to Australia to learn about improving their coverage of adaptation strategies and policy development.

Presenter: Emma Younger
Speaker: Richard Marles, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs; John Wallace, Asia Pacific Journalism Centre program director; Rikamati Naare, Kiribati Broadcasting and Publications Authority journalist; Verenaisi Raicola, The Fiji Times journalist

MARLES: Making sure that the story is told because it’s a very unique global story and it is one of the flashpoints of climate change that is being experienced in the globe today.

YOUNGER: Climate change is affecting the day-to-day life of many communities in the Pacific and most are struggling to adapt to the changing environment. Richard Marles is Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs. He says the region’s media should be helping the community deal with climate change.

MARLES: I think at a kind of local level, I think there is also a job in telling the particular ways in which this issue manifests in each of the countries. I think we have an image of rising sea levels and countries sinking. Right now the issue is water security so that’s the issue that needs to be told if you’re living in Tuvalu or Kiribati.

YOUNGER: Mr Marles opened a workshop in Melbourne this week, for 14 of the region’s reporters. The five week course is aimed at helping journalists understand the issues related to climate change and how to report them. The Asia Pacific Journalism Centre is running the program with funding from AusAID.

WALLACE: The environmental journalism group in the Pacific coming out of Samoa with Cherelle Jackson whose done a lot of work on trying to promote the importance of adaptation to climate change. I mean she sees it as being essential for news media to carry the message to help people to just deal with the day to day practicalities of water seeping into water storage areas and all the kind of steps people have to make.

YOUNGER: That’s John Wallace, the centre’s program director. He says climate change needs to become a more prominent issue in the Pacific’s media.

WALLACE: People are writing stories already but we’d argue that the topic needs to be given a higher priority and news media can play a role there. I think by coming here and seeing professionals who’ve been doing that in their workplace, I think they can pick up new ideas and use those techniques to make them write stories that are engaging and really useful for their communities.

YOUNGER: In Kiribati, climate change already dominates media coverage. But local journalist, Rikamati Naare says this only happened when the government started pushing the issue on a global level.

NAARE: In the past we don’t really think that climate change existed but right now as the UN Secretary General has seen for himself and he said Kiribati is the most shocking place where he has seen the impacts of climate change. And we also report that through radio and the wider community in Kiribati are fully aware right now about the impacts of climate change and they are urging for action.

YOUNGER: The workshop will expose journalists to the types of climate change stories covered by Australian media and other news outlets in the region. The organisers hope reporters will learn how to use more expert opinion in their reports and make the scientific connection between climate change and changes to their local environment. But Verenaisi Raicola, a senior writer for the Fiji Times says a lack of expert opinion in reports isn’t the only problem.

RAICOLA: The other thing is scientific jargon in these kinds of reports. I mean if journalists don’t understand how the hell will they be able to interpret that to their readers to understand? We need qualified journalists who know what they’re talking about when it comes to environmental issues so the training of journalists is very vital.

YOUNGER: She hopes the knowledge she gains about the global climate change debate will help other journalists improve their coverage.

RAICOLA: It’s really something that needs urgent attention and we need to highlight it more so that people can be aware. They’d know what the effects of climate change is, they’d know what to do if something affects them, they’d know where to report to and at the end of the day government would know where to step in.

Link to audio