Journalism and climate change: Expect the worst

05-11-2009 23:17

An old indian fairy tale goes like this: Five blind sages have been sent out to describe how this strange new animal called “Elephant” looks like. As every one of them touched only one part of the Elephant they came back with five completely different impressions. With this little anecdote Henrik Bödker only wanted to promote the interdisciplinary evening plenary. But actually he provided a great introduction to Chris Nash’s speech about “What can we expect of Journalism in Confronting Climate Change?”

Here is why: Imagining journalism would be an elephant and Chris Nash a blind sage, it’s safe to say, he would come back and say Journalism is buttocks and smells strange.  

Especially when it comes to reporting about climate change, Nash is convinced we only could expect the worst. He accounts for his damning indictment with a rough ride through the history of journalism. Looking back at the first heydays of journalism, emerged from the industrial revolution and mainly conducted by people from the working class, it seems obvious that modern journalism lost all its edges. 

Nash is leading that back to the extraordinary high entry barriers and production cost independent journalism suffers from these days. As even in pre-internet times no customer wanted to pay much for their news, news corps got more and more dependent on their second source of income and that is the advertisement industry. That led to an uncritical, mainstream kind of journalism.

The most concise effect of that is a three letter word: W-H-Y? This is the question contemporary journalists learned to forget to ask to avoid trouble with the actual sponsors of the content. As we all can witness nowadays this was a literally self-destructive decision.  

And, according to Nash, this is not only self-destructive but destructive in general. As long as journalist don’t learn to as why, they will speak of droughts in Kenya, border conflicts in Somalia or water shortage in Ethopia but they won’t address the problem of climate change itself. It just doesn’t sell.

A glimpse of hope for a better coverage only lies in the prospering new media, but as they are still embryos in a self-finding process we shouldn’t rely on them.

Nash would rather like to see how “how intellectuals develop a militant craftsmanship” to address the problem of climate change adequately. The issue is too revolutionary to leave it to conservative media.

by Frederik Fischer

Category: Conference news


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