Each of us is witnessing a change in our surroundings. And the change is a window or our learning on how to better our lives and our planet. Bringing all these witnesses on a single platform, the World Journalists Conference 2021, organized by the Journalists Association of Korea, focused on the role of journalism in relation to global climate change and post COVID-19 era
The global conference is an annual ritual for this association since 2013. And this year, it was held via Zoom with over 60 journalists from 50 countries. While each country has different measures in place to combat the pandemic and global climate change, the goal is the same — to have a healthier, peaceful world. The conference was held over two days and there was also a special session organized in association with Samsung Press Foundation on ‘What We Learned about Science Journalism in the Year of Covid 19’. The speaker Deborah Blum, director of the Knight Science Journalism programme at MIT conversed with Jean Yoon, Professor at Korea University and Ewha Womans University, School of Media and Communication.
Some highlights of Day 1-The Prospect of Post-COVID Era and the Role of Journalism:
- The media, especially print media, was hit hard as circulation and advertising dropped. Many journalists lost their jobs and there were pay cuts and delays in salaries. “For the print media, the only positive thing that happened during the pandemic is that some of the newspapers had to go through a technological transformation. …The ongoing financial crisis is forcing the newspapers to rethink their business models,” explained Mahbub Morshed, Joint News Editor, The Daily Star, Bangladesh. Depression became common and many journalists are looking to switch professions, he added.
- Zhihao Zhang, Science and Technology Reporter, China Daily, stressed upon the truth coming out. “In the public health domain, there will be a need for accurate, up-to-date, information as more countries start rolling out their vaccine programs. Vaccine discrimination, nationalism and apathy are real issues that can extend the run of the pandemic, issues that media must help tackle if we want to see the light at the end of the tunnel…. But perhaps the most important and urgent calling of journalism is to mow the poisonous weed of racism and hate that are burgeoning from the dunghill of misinformation and disinformation.”
- Ashraf Eldaly, Editor-in-Chief, The Silk Road Literature Series, Egypt, stressed upon, “What we need most is to feed these journalistic platforms from trusted sources. So, I recommend all authorities, organizations, and equivalent bodies related to human health, to start feeding true facts and news to help fighting fake news and saving lives. The new healthy information bank is the solution, a true vaccine that journalists need in Post COVID Era.”
- Kyungil Kim, Professor, Department of Psychology, Ajou University, Korea, said, “The media should act as a bridge. Of course, sharp criticism of the world is the most important purpose of the media. However, in the post-corona era, which is inevitably colder, the media should pay greater attention to the role of delivering heartwarming news especially of touch and physical contact. This is because happiness is the most essential tool and purpose of human existence and survival.”
Some highlights from Day 2- Global Climate Issues and the Role of Journalism
a. Fathulbari Akhgar, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, The Kabul Times, Afghanistan, highlighted, “Professionals, researchers and trainers in journalism from all over the world should jointly and coordinately work and exchange on best practices, innovations and challenges, they believe facing on how to mitigate the harmful impacts of the climate change… Journalists have to first understand the science and ethics of the climate change and then educate citizens about the ethical dimension of the climate change policy formation. Also news media portrayals of climate change, could strongly influence personal and global efforts to mitigate its risk.”
b. Ahmed Jamil, Advisor-News&Content Affairs, Asian Television, Bangladesh, had some suggestions such as Conducting Training and capacity building on Global Climate Issues and Journalism; Arranging Fellowship for journalists on Global Climate Issues; Organizing TV Talk Shows and Policy Dialogue among relevant stakeholders; Organizing Radio Magazine Program; Designing Investigative Journalism Program focusing on climate issues; Conducting research on climate issues and journalism; Publish publication for journalists focusing on climate issues; Publish hand book for journalists on climate issues and journalism;
c. Malik Sullemana, Senior Journalist, Ghanaian Times, Ghana, said, “To address climate change, journalists must not only utilize their platforms for education but as rallying call for increased government investment in clean energy, provision of potable drinking water, ban on illegal mining in countries with no strict mining regulation, tree planting etc.”
d. “Journalist need to test climate emergency stories with different focuses, including public health, national security, food security, economic development, job creation, local impact, etc.,” said Daul Jang, Government Relations & Advocacy Specialist, Greenpeace East Asia Seoul Office Korea.
e. Nasir Aijaz, Chief Editor, Sindh Courier, Pakistan, said, “Finally, I would suggest forming the global alliance of journalists to jointly combat the climate change threats. The propose Alliance should work for getting the journalists trained in coverage of climate issues. This could be done through the international agencies working on global climate change issues. The proposed Alliance may also monitor the media situation/coverage of climate issues in different countries and suggest the ways and means for improving it.”
Key takeways from the special session
Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer award winning science journalist. She highlighted the need for allaying fear while reporting. Science reporting tends to have a one-way track and the reporter needs to keep the balance. Most journalists are self-taught. As always trusted sources and established facts needs to be presented. Science stories take time and effort and patience unlike news and political events.
This annual conference becomes a knowledge bank as we see similar forces working in different environments. A common goal — one world, one planet for all and we could all do out bit in our own regions, sharing the best practices.