A journalism trainer has called for journalists to “raise their game” on the way they cover climate change.
Paul Wiltshire, who lectures at the University of Gloucestershire, says he would like to think reporters working now will have “an answer – and a clear conscience” when it comes to future generations asking what they had done to help preserve the Earth.
Paul’s comments come after an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which warns that the world could be heading for a disastrous three degrees celsius rise in temperatures by 205o.
Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger criticised a lack of coverage of Monday’s report in national newspapers, some of which led instead on a Strictly Come Dancing contestant kissing his dance partner, although The Guardian itself did lead on it.
On his personal blog, Paul wrote: “It’s perhaps the most important question to ask when deciding what priority to give to a news story. How many people does this affect?
“For many years, I’ve used the comparison between a strike by dustmen and women, and industrial action by museum workers. We’d notice one a lot more – and a lot sooner. And it would affect us all, no matter where we lived, how old we were or how much we earned.
“There’s a story out there that affects us all, too. And not just everyone on this planet now. But billions more in generations as yet undreamed of. And yet, it rarely troubles the front pages, the top half of news websites or the first few minutes of TV news bulletins.”
“Journalism has to raise its game here. We’ve seen titles such as the [Daily] Mail begin to effect change over plastic bags and microbes. But this risks being the equivalent of spitting in the sand to ease a drought unless it gathers dramatic pace.
“The priority which the BBC went out of its way to give to climate change earlier this week shows what can be done. There is scope for grassroots campaigning, pledging and lobbying in every community in this land.
“When our children and their children ask what we did to preserve their planetary home, I’d like to think journalists had an answer – and a clear conscience.”
On his blog, Paul admitted he was in “no position to crow” having just bought a diesel car which he drives nearly 90 miles a day to and from work.
Speaking to HTFP, he said: “This is really difficult stuff and I am absolutely no role model myself for any of this. But making this hugely important issue interesting, and trying to find ways of producing content which engages an audience ought to be one of the biggest challenges for journalism.”