Fiji Workshop Supports Human Interest Story Angles for Climate Change Reporting

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Earth Journalism Network, Suva, Fiji

A few hours drive from Fiji’s capital of Suva, Daku is a low-lying coastal village that is experiencing the impact of sea level rise. In an interview broadcast nationally by FijiTV One, community leaders from Daku explained how climate change is impacting their lives.

“People ask us if we will raise our homes,” said a community leader during his interview. “We say no. We will build a road dike and flood gates to stop the sea from coming in and to let the rainwater out.”

Seventeen journalists from a diversity of Fijian media outlets visited Daku as part of a three-day media workshop on climate change reporting held by Internews' Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the Fiji Media Association in October 2017. The training is part of Internews' ongoing Pacific GeoJournalism project supported by USAID's Pacific-American Climate Fund.

When introducing the purpose and content of the workshop, Cherelle Jackson, the leader of the Pacific GeoJournalism project, told FijiTV “climate change is a very complex issue and it’s already affecting the lives and livelihoods of Pacific Islanders.
This workshop demonstrated the need to speak to the people facing the impacts of climate change and the value of journalists going to the community to seek their stories.”

During presentations and practice sessions at the Fiji Times, journalists focused on learning ways to humanize scientific information and build the skills needed to incorporate data into climate reporting. EJN Program Officer Willie Shubert provided information about climate science and storytelling approaches.

“We have more information about environmental change than ever before but our ability to understand and respond to climate information is not always at the same level as the amount of information we have,” said Shubert.  “A journalist can use data to simplify the story by providing information about key trends that affect people’s lives in a visual way. “

Climate change is not a novel concept in Fiji, which was the first country to ratify the Paris Agreement and has been confirmed as President for the UNFCCC COP23 climate summit to be held this year in Bonn, Germany.  Samisoni Pareti, the editor of Island Business magazine and a trainer at the workshop explained, “to report accurately and responsibility, journalists need to understand the whole works about climate change, particularly the science. A workshop like this helps us improve our knowledge of the issues, to share our experiences, and understand at a more international level what is being done about climate change.” 

Although the main goal of the workshop was to build journalists’ capacity, it also resulted in the production of stories, including the 20-minute program produced by FijiTV One. Journalists from Fiji and elsewhere in the Pacific are also eligible to apply for small grants to research and report on climate change stories in the region.

“Tt’s important for journalists to attend workshops like these because climate change is a phenomena that affects people,” adds Samisoni. “That’s why journalists need to come in and explain what climate change is all about.