This year, Earth Day is about holding governments and corporations accountable for their actions — something journalists have the unique ability to do by calling out businesses, governments and individuals for their role in climate change and environmental degradation. Since 2004, EJN’s mission has been to enable journalists — especially those in low- and middle-income countries — to keep their audiences better informed about environmental issues in their region, who in turn are equipped with the information they need to hold those in power to account.
Thus far, we’ve worked with 13,802 journalists from all over the world to produce over 13,457 stories on environment and climate change. But how do we determine which of those stories helps spark change?
Monitoring the impact of these stories is crucial. At EJN, we use a methodology called outcome harvesting that allows us to investigate whether the stories we support drive debate, behavior change or policy action on the ground, and to identify how and why change occurred.
We stay in regular contact with the journalists and media organizations we support to collect information about potential impacts, and we also speak to relevant stakeholders within governments, NGOs, researchers and affected communities to fully understand how that change occurred -- and to what extent EJN’s support may have made a difference.
Media ecosystems and landscapes are complex, and the pathways to impact even more so. We can’t always verify the impacts we investigate, but each time we gain a better understanding of the role journalism plays in change.
In research we’ve conducted on the impact of environmental journalism, we’ve found that stories can be effective when there is continuous coverage, especially of slow-burn issues like climate change. In short, we need more environmental journalism – and to get there, we need more investment in that journalism.
That’s why we track our impact. Of course, it is heartening to know that the support we provide makes a difference in communities on the frontlines, to the priorities of policymakers and in the global fight against climate change. But more importantly, we know that accurate, engaging information that resonates with people can help effect positive change — and demonstrating how and why it does can be a powerful tool to push for more investment in media worldwide.
Here are some impact stories we’ve documented recently — each of which have successfully held corporations, governments and individuals accountable in some way:
- In Pakistan, Amar Guriro’s coverage of the effect of heat waves that killed over 2,000 people led local authorities to take steps support informal communities that are most vulnerable.
- In Yemen, independent media outlet Holm Akhdar produced a story on poaching that led local authorities in Shabwah province to ban the hunting of rare species.
- In Fiji, Stanley Simpson’s story on the impacts of sea level rise on a coastal community helped push the government to finally relocate the village after a delay of 10 years.
- A similar impact was reported in India, where local authorities in Odisha relocated a local community threatened by coastal erosion, after reports by Priya Ranjan Sahu and other journalists in the region.
- In Italy, the police arrested a songbird smuggler who was named in an EJN-supported investigative piece by Matteo Civillini.
- In the Solomon Islands, Ofani Eremae’s expose of the actions of logging firms led to the suspension of two of them for their role in illegal activities.
“The two [logging] companies deliberately felled the tubi trees despite knowing they did not have the license to do so. In my view, revoking their foreign investment permit is the right course of action. We need to send a message to others. I urge the government to do just that,” said Eremae.
Even as these impacts have been corroborated using our outcome harvesting methodology, there are dozens of EJN-supported stories that we are monitoring that may well yield impacts of their own further down the line. Here are just a few examples:
- In Ecuador, 30% of the garbage that washes up on the shores of the Galapogos Islands likely comes from Chinese shipping fleets. In their investigation, EJN grantees Isabel Alarcón and Ana Cristina Alvarado Proaño call out maritime regulators to regulate waste disposal by foreign fishing vessels at sea. Read the full story here.
- In South Africa, EJN grantee Siphamandla Goge’s report adds to the mounting pressure on the Johannesburg stock exchange to start investing in the low carbon economy to help fight climate change. Watch his report here.
- In Zimbabwe, EJN grantee Locadia Mavhudzi reports on the difficulties faced by Indigenous communities to hold Chinese-owned mining companies accountable for their actions which have caused widespread disruption on the Dohwe River. Read more here.
In an era when the news media has to fight for its very existence, when journalists come under verbal and physical attack and many places are turning into news deserts, every impact proves why investing in environmental journalism is a key way to #InvestInOurPlanet.
We encourage journalists in our network to track their stories once they’re published too – have they sparked debate, led to behavior change, or driven policy action? If so, let us know.
To learn how to improve the potential for impact as a result of your reporting, join our pre-Earth Day webinar on April 20. We’ll have media researchers and experts speak about the importance of accountability journalism and the conditions that enable stories to effect change on the ground, the challenges and opportunities in environmental and climate journalism today and more.
Read more about how our story grants have helped increase accountability around environmental issues on EJN’s impacts page.
Banner image: The clampdown on organized bird smuggling networks is using more effective tools such as wiretapping and motion-sensor cameras / Credit: Jacopo Benini.