In the article you will find information on courses, journalist networks, grants and advice suitable for journalists and photographers, covering the environment.
If you work in environmental journalism you should be aware that it is almost as ungrateful a job as political journalism, and in Bulgaria they often overlap. In addition to knowing all dependencies, affiliation of interests and individuals, you should understand extremely specialized topics – from climate change to biodiversity to legislation for natural balance to scientific and technical discoveries and research. You are often marginalized – in very few newsrooms, especially in the current critical state of media, the environment is a priority issue, unless covered in relations to a human interest story. Or political scandal or another protest for another construction or legislative nonsense. The workload is a extensive, you cannot be an expert in everything, especially if you are just starting off as a journalist.
However, if you have entered this profession in the first place and you have chosen to deal exactly with “eco” journalism, you have stepped on (hopefully) a strong foundation of idealism, enthusiasm and passion. As in all other areas of this craft, it is very important to have a good network of specialists you can rely on for information, but this is not always enough.
Good work requires resources and knowledge. Therefore, I propose a non-exhaustive selection of courses, journalist networks and scholarships for journalists dealing with environment.
The journalism Institute Poynter offers a special course for journalists reporting on climate change. Covering Climate Change provides not only basic information on the topic, but also guidance about how to avoid inserting your personal opinion when preparing your report.
For the first time this year in Greece a summer school for eco journalism was organized. The training in Crete was conducted by several universities in Greece and Ireland and the European Journalism Centre (EJC). The Summer School is aimed at students and young journalists. There is currently no information about whether the training will be organized for the second time, but you can follow it on EJC’s webpage.
Environmental issues are complex and based on scientific arguments. The lack of understanding often leads to contradictions. The Online Learning Platform Coursera has several courses aimed at non-experts on climate change, sustainable development and energy efficiency:
Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations – course begins in late September 2014 and is an introduction to the main themes, patterns and predictions about climate change and the development of climate policies.
Climate change – an inter-disciplinary course which goes into the social, economic and political consequences of climate change. It is presented by five professors from the University of Melbourne. The course has already started, but you can join before October 13.
Introduction to Sustainability – the course covers a variety of topics, including energy and climate change, ecosystem degradation, agriculture and water management, as well as GMO and the “Green Revolution.” The course ends October 19.
Journalists’ networks are extensive resources not only as databases with scholarships, training courses, but also because of the vast experience that colleagues from around the world share with each other.
The blog of the International Journalists’ Network has practical tips for working with most topics that concern a journalist working on environmental issues. I recommend the article by Andrea Arzaba for the extraction of minerals. The article is a summary of the book Anya Schiffrin “Covering Oil: A Reporter’s Guide to Energy and Development”, in which she advises journalists who face this issue how to approach the information and information gathering.
Another interesting network is Earth Journalism Network (EJN). It is aimed at eco journalists from developing countries, advancing their skills to adequately report on environmental issues. While not directly related to the topics that are traditionally covered by Bulgarian media, the network provides access to systematic environmental information worldwide.
Blue Earth is aimed at photojournalists and supports their projects for critical reporting of environmental and social issues. The organization is open to journalists from around the world and although not directly granting scholarships, it assists photographers with advice and opportunities to raise funds for realizing their documentaries.
Other useful networks are those of investigative journalists – the Global Investigative Journalist Network and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, since important environmental issues need serious investigation. Moreover, the networks publish opportunities for scholarships, while BIRN gives out grants exclusively to journalists from the Balkans.
The deadline is approaching for applications to the Fund for environmental journalism, which provides grants up to $3,500 for projects on underreported environmental issues. The Fund is a membership organization, but for the grant application it is not mandatory. Non-members pay an application fee of $40. Documents need to be submitted by November 15.
Pulitzer’s Persephone Miel Fellowship is granted to journalists, editors, photographers, radio and television producers. It covers the cost for reporting on systemic problems in the applicant’s country that are presented as a general hypothesis rather than sporadic reports from various places. Fellows will participate in a training in Washington, the costs of which are also covered by the program. The deadline for applications for 2015 will be announced in December 2014.
Fund for Investigative Journalism also supports projects and although the deadlines for 2015 has not been announced, the application process requires significant preparation. The grantee will receive financial support and mentors who will advise her during the project. Mentors are members of organizations Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Grants from the European Journalism Centre are awarded to journalists from nine European countries, and although Bulgaria is not among them, Bulgarian journalists can apply in partnership with journalists and media in one of eligible countries. Application deadlines for 2015 will be announced soon.
Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation’s award for excellent reporting on biodiversity has become a prestigious and meaningful assessment of the good work of journalists in the last eight years. It also comes with a check for 500 leva. Nominations for 2014 have expired, but the new ones will be announced soon.
From my modest experience as an environmental journalist, I want to share how important it is to create good relationships with environmental organizations. They are a constant source of information and topics, and luckily Bulgaria has very well-working conservation organizations that are open and willing to assist journalists. Moreover, they often organize journalist trips, which help overcome the lack of resources in most newsrooms for travelling around the country. The more actively you work with environmental organizations, the greater the chance to include you in their activities.
One of the main oversights of many journalists, including mine, is that after an event or trip, more often than not, we don’t check the details of the information we publish, such as the names and positions of people or projects mentioned. Sometimes the topics are very specific and the terminology itself is sufficient to confuse any non-specialist, so a phone call after the event can save you an embarrassment.
Environmental journalism enjoyed a beautiful boom at the time when I was doing it, but as it happened with many areas, it was seriously hit by the financial crisis in media. Not many media have specialized journalists, let alone units that deal with these topics. Work together with the “competition” instead of against it. Information exchanges and collegiality among the journalists in this area is a well-established practice and if you are just getting into journalism, you will be surprised by this phenomenon. Resources are never enough, so any help is valuable.
I am biased, but environmental journalism is perhaps the most interesting and rich area of journalism. Here you can unleash your powers like nowhere else and like nowhere else you will learn something new and important for each topic on which you work.
Author: Ekaterina Voynova, AEJ-Bulgaria