Climate News Mosaic – an alternative view of UNFCCC talks

At next month’s UN talks, RTCC will be hosting a live blog drawing on writers from across the world – Ido Liven explains how it will work



By Ido Liven

Be it the Cypriot-Turkish 40 years long standoff, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, or the UN climate talks, media tend to develop indifference to lengthy, complex political processes.

The international climate negotiations, some might say, have almost exhausted the world’s media attention span.

Consequently, original reporting, if it was there in the first place, is pushed aside, most often only to be replaced by occasional news agency dispatches. And eventually, fueled by skepticism about the prospects of any breakthrough, the result is a deadly nexus of growing disinterest and waning resources.

Last year’s climate conference in Doha offered some vivid evidence to this trend. In an analysis I decided to do at the time, I’ve looked into the coverage in 57 English language news websites from 27 countries around the world (of which 13 were developed countries and 14 developing countries) over the last hours of the conference, arguably the crescendo of the summit, or at least its media coverage.

Only 20 of the 67 news pieces I spotted were in fact original copy. The majority, 39 of the reports, came from news agencies – and predominantly AFP (the rest were either syndicated stories or unattributed news agency materials).

The implications of this dependency on no more than four Western news agencies remain largely overlooked. For one, while maintaining some of the most stringent (Western) journalistic standards, these are not necessarily consistent with journalistic, cultural and political contexts in other parts of the world.

Developed world bias?

In this case, all three main wires had a clear emphasis on the US. And, notably, with the exception of a few government officials from vulnerable countries (such as AOSIS and LDCs), most prominent were Western speakers talking about these communities, rather than members of these very communities. Confined to chronicling the negotiations in Doha, AFP dispatches in particular lacked an analytical approach or a global perspective.

And there’s more to it.

The fact that 20 stories were original does not necessarily mean that their authors were actually in Doha. It seems that even in western Europe, where decision makers are supposedly more committed to mitigation efforts and where media can afford sending their correspondents to attend the UN conference, ever fewer actually do and instead resort to reporting on the talks from their desks. And it would be fair to assume that COP-19 will not see more media outlets represented than its predecessors.

No doubt, this is a sorry state of affairs, but perhaps an opportunity lies just there. At Warsaw’s COP-19 next month we intend to explore that.

An international collective of 15 journalists – based in Costa Rica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Mali and other locations – we have set out to run a live blog that will complement the reporting  each of us will be doing by blending reports on the talks from the Warsaw summit with local perspectives from around the globe.

On this live blog we will be posting snippets of the reporting we will each do for our media – a short video from a plenary session in Warsaw, a photo from a rally in San Francisco, a soundbite from a press conference in Nairobi, a quote from an interview with an Italian scholar – and we will also be using inputs from overseas peers in our stories.

Team members commit to a minimum number of pieces produced as result of the project, and overall we expect no less than 27 news items, commentary, interviews and other to be published in national and international media.

Last week we launched a crowdfunding campaign, intended to cover mainly the costs of bringing three members of the group to Warsaw, where they will be tasked with moderating this live blog throughout the summit, in addition to their normal reporting. Much of this project – actually, all of it – depends on the success of this fundraising campaign.

If it materializes, our live blog – or Climate News Mosaic, as we call it – will be open for any journalist and any media to use (and contribute, of course), to either take individual posts or simply embed the entire live blog on their site. Yes, free of charge. Editors will also be welcome to commission stories from the project’s contributors.

Ultimately, by linking and exchanging local insights we believe the Climate News Mosaic can facilitate the kind of transboundary collaboration that the world’s policymakers have so far failed to forge, and especially in the face of decreasing interest in climate change and generally dwindling resources in the media.

By experimenting with a ‘glocal’ outlook we seek to encourage original reporting and expand the scope of climate journalism to reflect today’s interconnected and interdependent world and the truly global nature of the unfolding climate crisis.

To support the Climate News Mosaic visit the project’s crowdfunding campaign.

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