Samoan workshop boosts climate change reporting in the Pacific Islands

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Internews, Apia, Samoa

Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) recently held a workshop in Apia, Samoa designed to equip local journalists with the skills and knowledge to improve their coverage of climate change and natural resource management.

The two-day workshop was attended by a dozen practicing and student journalists from TV, print and online media outlets as well as the National University of Samoa. Participants were trained on topics including the science of climate change, best practices for climate journalism, and how to link climate change issues to the day-to-day life of local communities.

The workshop opening ceremony was covered widely by local Samoan print and TV outlets. During the ceremony, Stuart Schape of the Secretariat of the Pacific’s Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), which hosted the workshop, noted the value of journalists in community outreach and in building greater awareness of climate change impacts and adaptation. United States US Charge d’Affaires Angelina Wilkinson and Chief of Party for the Pacific-American Climate Fund (PACAM) Peter Collier also reiterated the commitment of the US to working with Pacific Island journalists on improving climate change reporting.

The first day’s practical training sessions led to a field trip to Palolo Deep Marine Reserve on day two. During the trip, journalists were briefed on how global issues such as ocean acidification and sea level rise are impacting the natural resources in their own communities. They had an opportunity to interview the family who manages the reserve and hear their first-hand account of the changes they’ve witnessed to the reserve during their lifetime, as well inquire about some of the challenges they face in managing the area.

Following the field trip, EJN Executive Director James Fahn led a discussion where journalists broke down the issues surrounding the marine reserve story and strategized the approaches they could take in covering it, including the many different angles – from business to politics to culture – they could use. Vatapuia Maiava of the Samoa Observer noted that the workshop, “not only helped me learn about climate change but how to do journalism in general, to break down stories and look for different angles.”

“I used to wonder if it would be possible to heal the atmosphere, but now I understand that we can do it if we all work together,” added Maina Vai from Catholic Media.

This was the first training of EJN’s Pacific GeoJournalism Project, funded by PACAM and with partners including SPREP and the Pacific Alliance of Development Journalists. It aims to build the capacity of local media in Samoa, Fiji, and Vanuatu to report on climate change impacts, thereby providing information that will allow communities and governments to make better informed decisions and take action on climate change issues. The project will also support increased transparency in natural resource management and climate change adaptation policymaking.

As part of the project, EJN will soon announce the availability of small grants for individual journalists throughout the Pacific region to pursue their own climate change stories.