AAP establishes continent-wide network of climate-journalism trainers
Climate reporting trainers return to their home countries after a five-day workshop in Nairobi
By Luke Dunstan
"It’s about telling a story to ordinary people. It’s about explaining and breaking down the climate change jargon to let people really understand, because they are the ones who are really affected by climate change. It’s about telling the story and educating the people." Charles Mangwiro, editor and reporter, Radio Mozambique
"I think that climate change is the story of the century; it affects all other subjects: the economy, society, politics, human rights, deportation, population displacement. And yet despite the fact that it covers all these aspects, climate change still has poor media coverage." Ben Nessir Chokri, Editor-in-Chief, Courrier de Tunisie and La Presse
Frederick Asiamah, a print journalist from Ghana, knows what assistance his colleagues in Accra need in order to get more climate-related stories into print and onto the airwaves.
‘The research skills of journalists need to improve, and the ability of journalists to link climate change to development needs to be improved,’ said Frederick. ‘That is what helps to determine whether a particular problem is arising out of climate change or is just a matter of development. Being able to link climate change to development is a skill that journalists need to have.’
Frederick is one of 19 journalists from all but one of the 20 AAP countries (a participant from Sao Tome was unavailable) who participated in the ‘Training of Trainers’ (TOT) workshop in Nairobi from January 16 to 20. Many of the participants had already taken part in one of either four international or eight national climate-journalism training sessions convened by the Media Capacity Building Project (MCBP) so far. Now, these 19 media workers are equipped with not just climate journalism skills but with the knowledge and networks to share these crucial abilities with their peers at home. The 19 new trainers can now be called on by AAP national teams, governments, civil society groups and media houses to host training sessions.
A key priority of the AAP is to increase public awareness of climate change issues and the kinds of responses and actions that will be required to ensure the sustainability of development in Africa in the face of variations in temperatures and rainfall, among other effects of climate change. To this end, the Nairobi-based MCBP works to improve the role African media can play in investigating, interpreting and reporting on the intersection of climate change and development with a view to better-informing both public debate and policymaking.
The TOT was the pinnacle event in the AAP’s media development calendar. With the rollout of national climate-journalism training sessions continuing across the continent, the MCBP has now instituted a professional development legacy under which its work can continue once the roster of national trainings is complete.
Joachim Buwembo, one of four senior journalists working as Team Leaders for the MCBP, said he is proud to see the project he’d been working on for seven months be given a life of its own.
‘The TOT marks a turning point in this project. After holding a series of successful local sessions around the continent my colleagues and I can now prepare the next wave of trainers who will ensure this work continues.’
Playing a decisive role
The TOT was opened by Yoichiro Yamada, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Japan in Kenya. In an engaging and thoughtful speech that quoted Ghandi, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Professor Wangari Maathai, Mr Yamada highlighted the pivotal role of the media in formulating good public policy.
‘Journalists have a big responsibility in the struggle to deal with climate change. Often, the media is the only source of information the public has about this topic. So what you report will largely frame the attitude of the pubic on these issues.
‘A good report provokes people to think about what they should do about the environment, or what policy they should demand the politicians to introduce. This process is what links the reality, science and policy-making.’
While he shared a wish that all sectors of the global community could act responsibly, Mr Yamada concluded by calling for those in in the room to act on their abilities.
‘Let us hope that humanity can overcome selfishness and greed. Let us hope that the international community will give common interest a higher priority than the pursuit of national interests. And let us hope that politicians everywhere think more about the legacies we leave for our sons and daughters.
‘I would like to conclude by saying, once again, that, in this whole endeavour, the journalists play a decisive role.’
AAP Media Fellowship recipient Audrey Wabwire, who was sponsored by the AAP to join the ‘We Have Faith’ climate justice caravan and to report from COP17, spoke after Mr Yamada. She implored the soon-to-be trainers to help shift the focus of climate-related journalism in Africa to make it meaningful to a wider audience.
‘In every country we were in, in every town we entered, we asked people ‘What do you know about climate change?’ And it was very difficult to get an answer. I think much of the problem is that climate change has been reported with a lot of jargon and this jargon is not something a woman in a rural area can understand.
‘We have to tie the stories people are getting back to their experiences on the ground. That is when the stories are relevant, that is when the message makes sense.’
Following the opening speeches 15 journalists from the Nairobi press corps were given the opportunity to discuss the project with the participants, speakers and staff.
Practice and theory
Each of the five days of the TOT was split between seminars and practical sessions. The agenda was similarly split between furthering the participants’ climate journalism-related knowledge and developing teaching techniques for how to share that knowledge.
In a session on new media tools available for journalists, digital media expert Justin Arenstein presented a range of online and mobile phone-related technologies available to African journalists and demonstrated how they can be used both to source complex information and to make it understandable and meaningful to a broad audience. He went on to discuss how these technologies can be used among audiences with limited online access.
Another boisterous session took place around the formulation of the upcoming MCBP guide to climate change reporting, the how-to guide that will soon find its way in to newsrooms around the continent. Participants provided fascinating inputs from their own experience on what information would help African journalists accurately and clearly report on these issues in ways both their editors and their readers would relate to.
Other sessions examined the practicalities of running training events such as devising objectives, tying them to an agenda, planning and undertaking field trips, ensuring compatibility with cultural and pragmatic considerations, and devising effective monitoring and evaluation methods.
Taking the knowledge home
The emphasis on practical training was well received by the participants, with some expressing relief at having completed practice sessions in Nairobi before facing rooms of their peers back home.
‘Journalists need to cover climate change to raise public awareness, and once the public has understood the stakes … they may put pressure on politicians to change their policies,’ said Moroccan print journalist Rachid Tarik.
‘I was apprehensive [about becoming a trainer] but the workshops have eased my mind by preparing things that will help journalists achieve our mission.’
Frederick from Ghana felt similarly empowered.
‘I’ve picked up the ability to relate to people through activities so that you understand what you are teaching by practice and not just by theory and what you read in books. We are able to show concrete examples. That is what has been done in this workshop and that is why I feel very privileged to have been part of it. Otherwise, I don’t know how I was going to be able to handle the whole idea of transferring knowledge to my colleagues.’
Other participants cited the distribution of knowledge that the MCBP’s training enabled in both formal and informal ways.
‘This training becomes part of training one another,’ said Emmanuel Muwamba from Malawi. ‘Sometimes when I’m in the office I talk to my seniors and I try to explain few things about climate change: how it is a development issue, how it is a social issue, how it is an economic issue—how it is not one area where you can leave it to others to tell the story.’
The opportunity is now available for all AAP national teams to engage our climate journalism trainers to conduct national trainings. ‘They’re ready and waiting,’ says MCBP Coordinator Jacqueline Frank. ‘Once financial arrangements have been made by the organising country all they need is a room and an audience.’ For more information contact Jacqueline Frank. [email protected]