This week’s interview is with James Fahn, Global Director of Internews’ Environmental Programs and its Earth Journalism Network. Internews trains journalists around the world in support of a free press. James spoke with us as he sets out with a group of journalists from the global south to cover COP26 from their own perspectives. He also discusses his background in climate journalism, whether every journalist should now be a climate journalist, and how they can do that effectively.
In the news roundup the team discuss the return to the magazine fold for one of independent newsletters’ first big stars – and whether that spells the end for the newsletter dream. In the news in brief, we ask if Adobe can help fight disinformation through better image information, success for Bloomberg Media, and make endless football analogies.
The full transcript will be live here shortly, but for now, here are some highlights:
Internews’ mission at COP26
We are bringing over 20 journalist fellows to the summit from the global south, from low and middle income countries. It’s so hard for journalists, especially from low and middle income countries, to get to these climate summits.
So every year really, pretty much for the last 15 years, we’ve been bringing journalists to the summits so they can cover for their local media outlets. So they don’t have to rely on the international wire agencies, and they can provide the coverage that their audiences need to understand these crucial global negotiations.
The more vulnerable a position you’re in, the more likely you are to take the issue seriously. And so you can imagine if you’re a journalist from a small island developing state, or a vulnerable place in a larger country, really this is a matter of life or death for you, and certainly livelihoods.
We’re doing a lot of activities leading up to the COP, and we’ll be doing a lot of things there, including panel discussions, inside events and things.
A growing interest in climate coverage
We’ve seen a huge increase in interest from media organisations. I think when I started out, environment coverage was relegated to the back pages, as stories about nature, and animals, and nice places to visit. And now it’s front page news.
Especially in recent years, we’ve seen a big uptick in climate coverage. I think some of the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing in recent years has definitely contributed to that.
On every journalist as a climate journalist
When I was a reporter for a newspaper, we had an environment section. But you wonder if you’re doing that, your focus is on that… are the only people reading it the ones who are already interested? So if you really want to inform people, you need to get it all over the news; the front page, the business section, the food section.
One of the main messages we give to our journalists is this is not just an environment story. This is a business story, a technology story, a political story, a finance story, a legal story, an international story, health, food and dining… Some of the best stories I’ve seen for instance on seafood and the ocean is in the dining section, because they report on seafood!
So I absolutely agree that everyone should become a climate journalist. Everyone should learn the basics of climate science, because you need to know that just to understand what’s happening and why. And then you can dive into so many different angles. That’s really one of the pleasures of such a big topic. It has a wealth of choices of how to cover it.
Whether COP26 coverage will make a material difference
It’s a little hard to predict for the journalism coming out of the summit. I think we’ll have influence, just because I think it will receive more attention, because the summit is a bit deal in the media these days. So any time it receives more attention, I think you can expect to influence more people.
It’s very hard to monitor or prove that it’s having that kind of influence, because we’re talking about people’s minds and perceptions. But we definitely have been able to document how journalism has made a material difference on the ground in the climate crisis, and in the biodiversity crisis, and the ocean crisis, and various other environmental crises we’re facing.
Actually, we have a web page on our website, earthjournalism.net, that describes in detail actual impacts from stories we’ve collected. And I think it’s kind of a new thing to show for journalists to be monitoring that kind of impact. But I think it’s important.
The Atlantic has recruited one of Substack’s poster boys and ex-NYT Opinion writer Charlie Warzel into its new newsletter portfolio.
- Eight other writers are joining The Atlantic programme: Lifehacker’s Jordan Calhoun, author Nicole Chung, political commentator David French, writer Molly Jong-Fast, author and screenwriter Xochitl Gonzalez, international affairs specialist Tom Nichols, African-American studies scholar Imani Perry, writer Yair Rosenberg.
- The nine newsletters will be free until the end of the month, but after that they’ll be available only to subscribers of The Atlantic.
- Nick Thomson: “I think that newsletter writers will in general be certainly more pithy than an Atlantic feature and probably even more pithy than an Atlantic web post.”
- The New York Times has adopted a similar strategy – high profile newsletter writers – but they’re wanting people to pay for them.
- Facebook and Forbes are hoping collections of popular newsletter writers will be profitable too.
News in brief:
- Business booms for Bloomberg Media thanks to an ad ‘windfall’ and 350,000 new subscribers. “This year, 2021, is by far and away the best year in our history,” CEO Justin B Smith told Press Gazette, saying that there’s been an unprecedented windfall of advertising spend. However, they’re falling short of their 400,000 subscriber target, which he blames on the Trump Slump.
- Adobe and news organisations are working on a new tool that could identify a photo’s origin. It’s still a work in progress, but a large international consortium (including Twitter and a number of publishers) is working with Adobe on tools and standards that would allow key details to be seen easily about a photo, without the need to reverse image search.
- The ‘reliability and quality’ of news content plays a significant role in achieving brand safety, a new study has found. The study focused on Disney’s news products – ABC News division, ESPN and other streaming services. Even news perceived as ‘heavy’ can actually improve brand favourability on ads appearing around it by 7%. There was an IAB study released last year which found similar, which suggests keyword blocklists aren’t necessary if you’re advertising on a reputable publisher’s site.
- The Information is amping up its Creator Economy coverage. It launched its Creator Economy newsletter in April, and coverage has already generated a six-figure subscription revenue for the publisher (according to their fancy paywall technology). Reporting on the sector has additionally led to a separate six-figure revenue in corporate subscriptions. We had their Creator Economy reporter Kaya Yurieff on the podcast just weeks ago if you’d like to hear more about her coverage.
- Google News is relaunching in Spain for the first time since… 2014! The country has overhauled its online copyright laws to bring it in line with EU regulation, which ironically gives it less teeth with Google. The tech giant no longer has to pay a fee to Spain’s entire media industry, and can now instead negotiate fees with individual publishers.
- America’s largest magazines retained 95% of their circulation through the pandemic. Strong print subscription bases and growing digital issue readership have helped magazines like Vanity Fair, Vogue and the New Yorker actually grow over the past year. Figures from the Alliance for Audited Media suggest that magazines have fared far better than newspapers over the past 18 months (the latter of which have lost 20% of print sales).
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