Enviromental journalism: question for BCU students

This afternoon I’m popping down to Birmingham City University to meet Paul Bradshaw‘s group of online journalism students.

They’ve been doing some fascinating work on developing an environmental news service, with each of them specialising in a different subject area.

Environmental news is close to my heart. I would love The Post to be giving more coverage to stories on sustainability.

But it’s also one of those subject areas that many readers regard with great suspicion. Look at The Times guide to the most popular environmental stories of 2007 and you’ll see what I mean.

So, I guess the big question is, can you write environmental stories in a way that builds trust between you and the reader? Is the current suspicion surrounding climate change – for example – caused by media sensationalism or poor scientific reporting? Perhaps it’s neither, maybe it’s just human nature to respond to environmental stories with suspicion.

I certainly don’t know the answer. But in a world where the hegemony of large news corporations is increasingly challenged, the issue of maintaining trust as a way to maintain audience is critical.

And, I suspect, if you find a way to crack the hardest nut of trust and environmental reporting, then you have probably struck gold.

Creativity applied to climate change

I am desperately trying to catch up with all the blog posts I have missed this month.

Charlotte Carey gives a good summary of the Cultural Industries and Climate Change in the West Midlands event held by Culture WM. I wish I had been there, it sounds interesting.

Some of what the speakers had to say was not new: that the West Midlands was the heart of the Industrial Revolution so it should become the heart of the green revolution is often said. I think, however, when you consider the massive investment ploughed into alternative energies in places such as Denmark or in Silicon Valley in the US, I suspect that goal might be a tough one.

However, I was interested in the suggestion by Professor John Thornes that the region should develop “a season of events – cultural events highlighting issues of climate change”.

I’m all for finding innovative ways to get the urgent and rather scary message about climate change out, without it terrorising people into apathy. This sounds an interesting approach, although I’m not sure exactly what form it might take.

Obesity Kills Polar Bears?

In his infinite wisdom, health secretary Alan Johnson has said obesity is potentially as great a threat as climate change.

Now I must be terribly ill-informed because I hadn’t realised that, in addition to causing death, obesity had the potential to create hundreds of thousands of refugees, the extinction of plant and animal life (is that because we will eat them?!) and change the topographical face of the planet as we know it.

I guess I’ve underestimated obesity.