If there was ever a global issue that were to impact upon every single person on the planet, it would be one that impacts upon exactly that which we all share – the planet. Climate change has been a topic for global debate for years, in all its facets: its impacts, causes, consequences and indeed its very existence. When reporting on such a widely debated topic journalists are in both a powerful and delicate position. Traditional rules of reporting like “seek the truth and report it” (Ward 2009, p.13) and “give voice to the voiceless” (Ward 2009, p.13) seem contradictory in that ‘truth’ necessitates scientific evidence providing to the future of the planet, while presenting fair coverage of opinion requires the reporting of climate change sceptics, undermining the ‘truth’ aspect altogether.
An episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” offers a satirical demonstration of exactly how debates concerning the reality of climate change should take place in order to adhere to both the rules of ‘truth-seeking’ reporting as well as those which enforce a fair coverage of opinion. This demonstration is in the video below:
If global media were to collectively report that climate change does in fact exist, then ideally, global media could collectively then report on how to deal with it. However the question remains of where to take the coverage of an issue with such a widespread potential for focus. In Australia, the media could be criticised for a focus on the political and taxation standpoints of climate change, however this could in fact be a step in the right direction. These kinds of reports move past climate change scepticism and focus on practicalities, even if they are perhaps not the most prominent. In his article, Bud Ward concludes that “it may be months or years before the public decides which media format best meets its needs” (Ward 2009, p.15) in terms of climate change, however I would argue that the public may in fact never know exactly what it needs and which is precisely why the media is of such importance in this global crisis. It is in a position of power to direct public opinion and consequently action on and issue which Obama claims will “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate” (Kenny & Cox 2014).
Perhaps the media is currently exploring a narrow-focus in terms of climate change, however any report which accepts the reality of the situation and moves beyond it to explore practicalities, in any form, is a step forward in the reporting of climate change.
Cox, L & Kenny, M 2014, “’Bigger threat than terrorism’: Barack Obama signals Australia, India and China must improve on climate change’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September, viewed 11 October.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 2014, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Climate Change Debate (HBO), online video, 11 May, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, viewed 11 October 2014
Ward, B 2009, ‘Journalism ethics and Climate Change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty’, Ethics in Science and Environment Politics, vol. 9, pp. 13-15.