OPINION – Are our newsrooms ready for Climate Change?

tora mug

By ILIESA TORA in Sydney, Australia

July 22, 2018: 2pm (Nuku’alofa Times): I am on my way to speak at the 2018 Global News Forum organised by the AsiaVision in Ho Chin Miehn, Vietnam this week.

With the theme ‘News in the Digital Age’ the organisers have asked that I speak on the topic ‘Is Our Newsroom Ready for Climate Change’.

The request is to speak on the South Pacific perspective and share the experiences our journalists and media organisations go through daily in the ever-increasing challenge of climate change.

My island of Koro was devastated by Cyclone Winston in 2016 -- with the rising sea whacking houses to the grounds after high waves swept in as the strong winds blew

My island of Koro was devastated by Cyclone Winston in 2016 — with the rising sea whacking houses to the grounds after high waves swept in as the strong winds blew.

I have admitted that I am not an expert on the topic but believe that the experience of having covered events and issues intensively not only in the region but internationally and learning from my fellow Pacific journalists would give me enough ammunition to be able to present an informative Pacific perspective at the conference.

Being the first President of the Pacific Environment Journalists Network (PEJN) also got the organisers to extend that invitation, which I have humbly accepted on behalf of my fellow Pacific colleagues – most of whom I believe would be better qualified to be speaking on the issue.

Journalists around the region have a big and important task of educating the public about important issues and raising awareness on climate change.

One thing we can known for sure — climate change is not going to be gone in 20 years. Its effects are going to increase day by day.

We do not have to look too far in the region to see what climate change is doing.

Kiribati --- real challenge daily

Kiribati — real challenge daily

Our people from Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru, the Marshalls and the Federated States of Micronesia face serious threats every day.

Even Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga are also now seeing first hand what climate change is slowly doing to our environment and habitats.

We are facing real threats that if we do not act to reduce or eliminate would surely see some of our islanders being displaced for good from the place they call home.

While our communities get to learn how to come to grips with these new challenges, the media in the region has also been struggling in alot more ways than one.

I for one have been reporting on issues for the last 25 years or so as a reporter — in sports, politics, court stories, business, feature stories or indepths — and not realising that amongst these stories I had written over the years were components of climate change.

Now we realise that there is the need to specialise on reporting on climate change and environment – and raising this important issue for all to learn from.

Interesting indeed is the fact that our newsrooms across the Pacific are so diverse in many ways — which makes the media in the region very interesting as well.

While we have the major mainstream media in almost all our regional countries there are also smaller private owned media operations running as well.

Pacific journalists who have formed the Pacific Environment Journalists Network, here at the COP23 in 2017.

Pacific journalists who have formed the Pacific Environment Journalists Network, here at the COP23 in 2017.

Tonga is one good example. We have around five Tongan weekly newspapers, almost the same number of radio stations and so many online operators.

Within that media fraternity lies the daily challenges our newsrooms face.

Lack of staffing, lack of resources and finance are basically the bigger challenges.

How do we get out there to cover environment news – climate change issues that are affecting people if we do not have the reporters to do it.

If there are no funds, no transport?

These are real challenges for Pacific media operators, especially the smaller ones.

On another side of the coin most of our reporters have never been trained in environment and climate change news reporting.

These challenges hinder in some ways the work that we are supposed to be doing.

Then again are the real physical threats we face in case we have an unexpected tsunami, whirlwind or cyclone that destroys our newsrooms physically.

Would we have the money to be able to buy equipment that would ensure we can cover stories remotely and share that with people without having to rely on doing that from our newsrooms?

Newsrooms in the Pacific face these daily challenges.

And we would look to partners, funders and organisations out there in the developed world to come in and support the work that we do.

Our Pacific needs all the assistance we can get.

Our media owe it to the people to provide the information that would help them make positive decisions for their better well-being.

Yes we can if we are helped.

We are the best to tell our own stories.

Are we ready for the climate change challenges?

Partnerships will ensure we are!






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