More than 250 news outlets around the world and dozens of institutional and independent partners are banding together to deliver an unprecedented wave of climate change reporting in the week leading up to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres’ climate summit in New York City September 23.
The effort to bring “more and better coverage to the defining story of our time” was co-founded over the summer by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, and the Covering Climate Now website is maintaining a running sample of the reporting that has resulted. The site sets out to correct what co-editors Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope call “one of our greatest journalistic failures”.
“It’s been 30 years since Bill McKibben rang the warning bells about the threat of man-made climate change—first in a piece in The New Yorker, and then in his book, The End of Nature,” they write for The Nation. “For most of that time, the response from most quarters of the media, especially in the United States, has been either silence or, worse, getting the story wrong.”
They recall that “reporters and their news organizations sidelined climate stories as too technical or too political or too depressing. Spun by the fossil fuel industry and vexed by their own business problems, media outlets often leaned on a false balance between the views of genuine scientists and those of paid corporate mouthpieces. The media’s minimization of the looming disaster is one of our great journalistic failures.”
So CJR and The Nation set out to encourage news organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere “to raise their game when it comes to climate coverage,” Hertsgaard and Pope state. “We weren’t going to tell people what to write or broadcast; we just wanted them to do more coverage, and to do it better. Close the gap, we urged them, between the size of the story and the ambition of your efforts. Try it for a week, then report back on what you learned.”
The response confirmed the two publications’ hunch that there was already a critical mass of journalists and news outlets that wanted to focus more of their coverage on the climate crisis, making Covering Climate News “the biggest effort ever undertaken to organize the world’s press around a single topic,” the two editors write. After the week is up, “the climate story is not going away, so neither are we. We’ll be talking to our newsroom partners about what they learned this week, what they need to continue the momentum, what they can learn from one another, and where we go from here”