World News Day 2021
highlights the critical
importance of credible
journalism in providing
about the climate crisis.
UNESCO's GLOBAL MEDIA &
INFORMATION LITERACY WEEK
will feature a panel (Oct 29)
on the intersection of
journalism and media literacy.
SOME BASIC BACKGROUND RESOURCES
Taking a journalistic approach to dissecting all content can be very powerful. Before starting to do that, it's useful to know what real journalism at its best is supposed to be.
This first part of the collection aims to examine basics of good journalism via a particularly accessible examination of one case with global implications plus two examples of news organizations that combined journalism with advocacy campaigns around a cause embraced by young people all over the planet: protection of the environment. The next parts will look at how to reach journalists for real testimony and how to get an experience in doing journalism.
These resources work best with people at least in their teens.
PART1 THE BASICS
FIRST, WATCH A MOVIE
[For teenagers and older]
The 2-hour contemporary film Spotlight describes how in 2002 The Boston Globe, a U.S. newspaper, revealed the cases of dozens of priests who got away with sexually abusing teenagers and children for decades with the complicity of the Catholic church.
The issue resonates globally and the film offers a solid overview of journalistic excellence.
Allan Miller, CEO of the News Literacy Project, gives a good explanation of why why it's useful in explaining how journalism is important anywhere:
"[Spotlight] brought attention to journalism’s watchdog role — holding the powerful accountable — and the importance of a local newspaper to its community at a time when journalism was increasingly under fire and many local publications were failing. It portrayed the reporters and editors as heroic, though fallible, and reflected the essential role of principled sources and courageous victims to bring vital, if excruciatingly painful, truths to light."
The movie, which takes very few liberties with the real story, also provides compellilng, quality entertainment and won film awards in Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The issue remains relevant with similar cases reported recently elsewhere in the United and all over the world.
Available through many streaming services, including YouTube, iTunes, Google Play Movies and Netflix.
The links below connect to interviews with the real reporters who did the coverage, offering further insights into the realities and challenges in investigating such a difficult issue, and to a very good set of activities from the Journalism Education Association (USA).
[VIDEO 00:04:56, ABC News]
[VIDEO 00:12:17, Boston Globe]
[VIDEO 00:59:10, C-span]
THE CLIMATE CASE - When good journalism
does more than REPORT ABOUT THE PROBLEM
Good journalists argue regularly about the extent to which their role should stop — or not — at describing what is going on. On the topic of climate, there is a more frequent willingness than for other kinds of stories for their news organization to go beyond providing basic reporting of the problem to also look at solutions and even push for change.
Here are two cases in which news media companies in India and Poland worked with young people in successful campaigns to fix an environmental problem.
CASE 1 - Clearing the air for India's worst-polluted city
In 2018, India's Dainik Jagran used a combination of reporting and an accompanying campaign that included students to persuade the authorities in the suffocating city of Lucknow, the city with the world's fourth worst air quality, to take action that significantly reduced air pollution. It worked.
ADVOCACY VS ADVOCACY
Advocacy by individual reporters within a news organization has remained a highly controversial practice for centuries, with no end in sight to the discussion. It is often prohibited by national and international ethical codes and yet not infrequently embraced by even highly respected journalists.
Here are some recent explorations of the topic.
For the International Center for Journalists, Sherry Riccardi explores one African case of a reporter giving financial support to a source in need (2020).
Facing History and Ourselves, the U.S.
provides extensive activity materials linked to the 2009 documentary, Reporter (available on streaming services), which follows New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as he works on stories to bring attention to the humanitarian plight there.
In 2020, the Center for Media, Data and Society at Hungary's Central European University looked at four cases of media-advocacy partnerships in Africa and Latin America
CASE 2 - SAVING Poland's ROSPUDA RIVER FROM A CONCRETe GRAVE
Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza conducted a youth-oriented campaign that helped stop highway construction in the Rospuda Valley, a rich bio-diverse river area of Poland.
Grzegorz Piechota, researcher-in-residence at the International News Media Association and a former research fellow at Harvard and Oxford universities, was the project manager for that 2007 campaign and explains why it's still relevant:
Protection of the natural environment is a moral duty of humanity and requires bold leadership as the globe faces a climate crisis.
The key conflict of values — a duty to protect natural resources versus a desire to modernize the infrastructure and grow economy — is common across the world and especially difficult to negotiate in developing countries.
Young audiences recognize the importance of the subject and engage with it, and the popularity of Greta Thunberg is one the examples.
The Gazeta case also exemplifies the importance of youth and young adults’ engagement in decision making in democracies (the young are political), the value of public dialogue (e.g., the right of the international and national communities to engage in a local issue due to the public interest), etc.
From the journalism perspective, this case inspires a discussion whether journalists can express their views and whether there are or should be the boundaries between engaged journalism and activism.
From the marketing perspective, this case shows that the medium should be customer-centric rather than a product-centric in the sense that it needs to reach the target audience in the channels and formats that audience uses to be successful.