We will all remember this year. 2020 has brought practically every human on Earth (and some in Outer Space) challenges and obstacles that were unimaginable just 12 months ago. At that time, Climate Tracker was just wrapping up the year after a long COP, and we were looking forward to a new year that should have been one of climate ambition. We all know what came instead.
But climate change doesn’t go on lockdown, and climate journalism shouldn’t either. This year we’ve seen the most active Atlantic season ever recorded, some of the largest wildfires ever, and record-breaking temperatures across the world. At the same time, emissions took only a minor hit from the pandemic and recovery plans across the board aren’t ambitious enough. The climate story is far from gone, and now more than ever we need bold, ambitious journalists to find and tell these stories before it’s too late.
While in the Global North countries climate reporting is starting to gather pace, young journalists in less developed countries who are looking for a career in climate coverage often face a lack of opportunities to receive training and mentoring, or to reach international audiences. The climate story is not complete without their input. Climate Tracker’s mission is to give them the tools and the opportunities they deserve so they can do the journalism we all need.
So, even though it has been a challenging year in which we have had to adapt (like everyone else), we are proud to have kept our commitment to climate journalists around the world. We have spent 2020 as we did 2019, helping young climate journalists get better at their job which, today, is more important than ever.
Like in most other organisations, many things have changed in Climate Tracker this year. The extraordinary measures put in place by most nations and international organisations to control the spread of the virus have triggered the cancellation of climate events all around the world. When they have been held, these have been mostly online. Our traditional in-person, hands-on model has had to evolve too. And we have been able to make that transition and reach our goals as an online organization.
The best example of this change is at the Africa Sustainable Energy reporting programme, developed between May and September in partnership with Hivos. This programme, initially designed as a reporting trip to the Sustainable Energy for All summit that would have been celebrated in Kigali (Rwanda) in May, Climate Tracker transformed it into a 4-month fully online mentorship. The resources were invested in high-quality training in energy reporting for around 25 young journalists from all over Africa. Their work resulted in the production of 15 stories. 12 of these authors went on to a second phase, where they had the chance to receive further training and hone their skills by writing in-depth stories. All these stories were published in national media, and a selection were also published on climatetracker.org.
In addition to these programmes, we have also kept our Local Solutions journalism programme, in partnership with One Earth. The programme has allowed 10 young reporters from all over the world to report from their communities and countries to report on the action taken on the ground. By helping them transition to a fully online model, they have published one article per month each, even in the face of the strictest lockdowns. These articles have been published on oneearth.org, and many of them have also been published in climatetracker.org.
BUILDING ITS OWN
Climate Tracker has just wrapped up its first Global Mentorship for Young Media Professionals. In this all-round, paid opportunity, 12 journalists from as many countries in 4 continents have had the chance to get specific training and hands-on practice on different climate topics. This programme, funded as a pilot initiative by Climate Tracker, has resulted in 30 different stories that range from solutions-based journalism to hard-hitting, in-depth critical reporting.
Our fellows have also had the chance to experiment with social media storytelling techniques and other communication skills that are absolutely key for 21st century professionals, such as podcasting, newsletter writing and collaborative cross-border journalism.
Throughout the process, each of them has shown immense improvement in their short time with us. Coming from different backgrounds and countries, their passion and hard work, added to a personalised attention have paid off in their own different ways. But all of them have gotten something valuable out of this mentorship.
For Sao Paulo-based journalist Meghie Rodrigues, this meant stepping out of her comfort zone. “Even if I have a bit of experience, I wasn’t pushing myself to try different things and other ways of telling stories. It was invaluable to be challenged to do things differently and this is exactly what I was looking for,” she said about her time at Climate Tracker.
Gaea Cabico, a young reporter based from the Philippines, the most valuable lesson was the hands-on approach to editorial work, and how this helped her improve her structure and style, and a better understanding of climate change as a global phenomenon: “[My mentor’s] inputs on structure were really helpful. He also taught me to cover a climate story with a global mindset since climate change is affecting everyone in the planet. And as a person who writes lengthy sentences, I learned to make my stories brief but comprehensive.”
Meet all our fellows here!
To leverage its new online model, Climate Tracker also kicked off a new model of monthly online training sessions. Taking, in most cases the form of online video webinars, we have offered young climate reporters from around the planet the opportunity to get training in hurricane coverage, healthcare and climate, degrowth and data-driven climate journalism. The first webinar took place at the end of June, and since then we have organized four sessions. In September, instead of a webinar, we published a series of interviews with top experts such as Mark Hertsgaard, Zoya Tierstein or Sara Acosta on how to cover the US Presidential Election from a Climate perspective.
These are only some of the opportunities that Climate Tracker has worked on this year. A year in which everything has changed, but in which we have kept helping young climate reporters from all over the world tell the most important story.
In 2021, we hope to take this mentorship model to new geographies, and collaborate with a range of partners seeking to gain a long term relationship with the most dynamic reporters in their region. Our focus with these pilots is to create an intensive, holistic and rewarding mentoring experience. It is a hands-on learning environment for each fellow, and an unmissable collaborative opportunity.
After reflecting on our first New Media Fellows pilot, we are now entering our second round of fellowships to begin in January. This group will be as diverse and powerful as the first, with a few innovative little twists so see if we can push our young journalists even further.
By the middle of 2021, we will be taking our mentorship model into newsrooms seeking to expand on their climate reporting, and across new geographies and thematic focuses that don’t get nearly enough coverage. Reach out today if you’d like to apply, support, collaborate or partner with us to make this a reality.
Santiago Sáez – Director of Journalism – firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Wright – Managing Director – email@example.com