How do we cover the climate crisis?

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By Alexandra Holyk

Permafrost is melting. Permafrost is melting. Permafrost is melting. No matter how many times environmental reporters state the facts,given what’s happening to our planet, journalists must be at the forefront of making sure the climate crisis gets the attention it so desperately needs. 

Fatima Syed, a Ryerson alumna, worked at the National Observer as an investigative reporter and knows the difficulties that come with climate crisis coverage. Her role was analyzing changes to environmental and energy policies made by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government.

Syed said it was important to “take a step back” to gather the research and context needed before reporting to ensure the story made sense. 

According to Syed, providing people with more information about the climate crisis can increase their interest in learning more and sharing the impact the crisis has. Thus, Syed said she believes there is so much more that journalists need to do to cover this topic.

“I would like environmental reporting to move toward more solutions, toward social impacts,” Syed said, adding that a shift in coverage could lead to a shift in the province’s political discourse.

Although she just started her new job as a reporter at The Logic, a Canadian economy-based news website, Syed said she hopes to hold the provincial government accountable for the decisions they’ve made surrounding the climate crisis.  In the near future, she hopes to look into industry solutions—collaborations between the government and corporations toward fighting the climate crisis. “If the government’s solution is to give companies money to solve the climate crisis, then we should be looking at those companies,” Syed said. 

As a science reporter at The Globe and Mail, Ivan Semeniuk sees the climate crisis is becoming a topic of public interest that can’t be ignored. As the topic grows, the increasing need for environmental reporting does too. He believes facts and supporting evidence are crucial in preventing miscommunication between himself and readers.

As climate change is a politicized topic, Semeniuk strives to write articles from a scientific perspective, preventing readers from making assumptions about the information. Semeniuk said that an article’s choice of words is a determining factor to make it not opinion-based.

“I try to be careful about the language and also try to make sure that I leave as little room as possible for misinterpretation,” Semeniuk said. “Especially if you’re talking about something that has such an impact on [the] future [of] human life…you’re not allowing people to walk away with the wrong impression.”

Natasha Grzincic became deputy editor of VICE Canadaafter working as the senior editor for Motherboard—VICE’s science and tech section. 

VICE’s project “Tipping Point,” a special series on environmental justice, highlights the climate crisis’s impact on communities across North America. Its goal is to prove to readers that even if you’re not feeling the heat of climate change, it’s still a very real thing.

After noticing a fatigue amongst their readers around science-heavy articles on climate change, Grzincic pitched the idea of environmental justice stories from the perspective of people experiencing the climate crisis first-hand. One such perspective is shown by Weronika Murray’s photo essay on permafrost melting in Northern communities.

After surveying their millennial readership, now, Grzincic says, there’s a high demand for climate change coverage among VICE Canada’s readership.

Grzincic said it’s assumed most people know the basic facts surrounding climate change, but it’s still necessary to include them as supportive evidence. 

Grzincic also said VICE won’t publish a story that advocates against climate action. “We’re not going to give a climate denier a platform to argue differently,” she said.

Grzincic said there should be optimism in environmental coverage. It’s a way to reassure readers that the crisis isn’t all “doom and gloom.” “We’re still able to offer a sense of hope.” 

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