Starting this week, more than 200 news outlets will participate in a dedicated week of climate coverage in the lead up to the upcoming UN climate summit this September. It’s a historic media response to a historic crisis.
Moments like these don’t come around very often, so nonprofits need to make the most of them. M+R’s communications team attended the launch event and left with a few ideas to help you tap into the media’s week of climate coverage this month (and beyond).
And this isn’t just advice for environmental nonprofits. Climate change affects just about every issue we work on — environmental, international, immigration, poverty, health, education, democracy, and on and on. Chances are, whatever you’re working on is in some way impacted by the crisis, too.
- Think outside of the climate beat.
One of the recurring themes at the event was a recognition that the “climate beat” is both a step in the right direction AND limiting. Reporters and activists alike noted that outlets with dedicated climate teams like The Guardian and the New York Times produce regular, high-quality reporting on climate change. But others expressed concern that climate expertise in the newsroom remains too siloed.
Nonprofits, scientists, activists and other experts can play a role in helping to bridge that knowledge gap by identifying hooks and angles that fall outside of climate reporters’ purview and expanding their list of press targets to include other beats.
- Local and regional outlets are desperate for data.
Smaller regional outlets are eager to cover the climate crisis and what it means for their communities. But it was evident that many are still grappling with how to do so effectively.
During the town hall section of the event, more than one reporter and editor from local news outlets issued a plea for more local angles, experts and data. Nonprofits can play a role in filling these gaps by producing new research that localize climate impacts.
- Don’t give up on broadcast.
While it’s true that climate reporting could be improved across the board, some outlets are doing better than others.
According to a Media Matters calculation, one episode of Meet the Press comprised nearly 30 percent of all climate coverage on TV in 2018. That’s a failure of epic proportions. We’ve got a lot of work to do to improve climate coverage on TV — but that also means we have major opportunities there.
The past few weeks alone have served as a reminder that good old fashioned organizing and pressure campaigns work. CNN and MSNBC are hosting climate-related town halls, providing candidates with a forum to discuss the myriad of challenges and opportunities posed by the climate crisis. And a recent profile on 60 Minutes of the youth taking on the U.S. government, as well as segments on NBC Nightly News and CBS about melting ice caps also feel like signs of a shift on TV.
In other words, now is the time to double down on your broadcast outreach because it finally feels like they smell fire.
- Keep. Pitching.
Of course, this is a fundamental truth for all media relations, not just climate coverage. But the truth is, we may finally be reaching the time when the realities of climate change are simply too big, too obvious, and too disastrous to ignore.
Just like climate change knows no borders, it also doesn’t respect the neat nonprofit sectors. This crisis touches all of our work, and it’s up to us to make sure those stories are told. Let’s hope the media upholds its commitment to improved climate coverage, and let’s help reporters covering the issue by giving them what they say they need from experts in the field.