Faced with a climate emergency, journalists should not keep reporting news the same old way. That’s the thinking behind a path-breaking innovation in climate journalism launched this March in France, where the national public broadcaster, France Télévisions, is dramatically changing how it reports on weather. And since weather is a staple of news coverage the world over, this is an innovation that journalists everywhere should know about.
Traditional weather reports are out at two of France’s main public TV channels. Instead, the France 2 and France 3 channels present a nightly “weather-and-climate journal,” complete with a sparkling new studio and a logo that joins the words meteo — French for weather report — and climat.
Viewers of these meteo climat journals still see plenty of maps dotted with temperature numbers and snazzy graphics depicting storm systems blowing in from the Atlantic. The on-air presenter, Anaïs Baydemir, still talks about how hot or cold it will be in Paris, Marseille, and other parts of the country, and how likely it is to rain. But the weather is now presented in the context of climate change; viewers hear about how the weather they are experiencing may be affected by the overheating of the planet.
The goal is to “not just to say, ‘It will be sunny tomorrow or it will rain,’ but to explain why,” Alexandre Kara, the editor-in-chief of France Télévisions, said in an interview with the AFP news agency. Kara added that it is no longer “acceptable to be happy that it is 25 degrees [77 degrees Fahrenheit] in [the seaside resort town of] Biarritz in February without explaining why.”
Viewers are left in no doubt that global warming is man-made and caused mainly by burning fossil fuels; indeed, they can observe the inexorable rise in average global temperature on screen in real time. An electronic dashboard behind Baydemir continually updates the precise amount by which today’s average global temperature exceeds that of the pre-industrial era. That amount is calculated to eight decimal places, so viewers of the inaugural March 13 broadcast could see the dashboard first register 1.18749861 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level and then, after 37 seconds, click one digit more to 1.18749862 degrees C and then, after 2 minutes and 28 seconds, eventually reach 1.18749873 degrees C.
To encourage audience engagement, viewers are invited to submit questions that get answered on air by a climate expert. “Winters hardly exist anymore in France — should we expect the disappearance of our four seasons?” went a recent query answered by Christophe Cassou, one of France’s leading climate scientists.
France Télévisions is changing not only how it presents climate news but also how it goes about covering news in general. Except in cases of urgent breaking news, France Télévisions journalists will no longer travel by plane to report on events taking place inside France. “We are going to ask everyone to take the train,” Kara said.
This is what leadership in climate journalism looks like. CCNow salutes France Télévisions and urges our colleagues everywhere to ponder their inspiring example.
Investigating the Amazon. Sixteen outlets in 10 countries have collaborated to report stories from the Amazon that Dom Phillips set out to tell when he and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered for their work. One year after their deaths, The Bruno and Dom Project has launched, with an introduction by Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner. Follow the project on the Guardian…
- “Brazilian Amazon at risk of being taken over by mafia, ex-police chief warns” by Tom Phillips and Jonathan Watts for the Guardian
- “Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips were killed in the Amazon. A year later their Indigenous allies risk death to carry on the work” by Tom Phillips
Uninsured. The insurance giant State Farm announced last Saturday that effective immediately it would stop accepting all new applications for business and personal property and casualty insurance policies in the entire state of California, citing skyrocketing construction costs and “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure” from climate change. By Christopher Flavelle, Jill Cowan, and Ivan Penn of The New York Times…
Conspiracy-driven threats. Meteorologists at Spain’s national weather agency, AMET, have been receiving increased abuse and harassment, coinciding with more extreme weather in the country. Conspiracy theorists and climate deniers are driving the trend, not just in Spain, but around the world. By Laura Paddison at CNN…
Drone defense. In Guyana, a group of Indigenous women are using drones to scan for illegal cutting of mangroves. They expect to begin collecting soil samples to monitor how much carbon the landscape sequesters. Meanwhile, Guyana is experiencing an oil boom and its courts have ordered ExxonMobil to have unlimited liability insurance in the event of a major oil spill. By Dánica Coto for the Associated Press…
Rural vs urban. Usually it’s rural people who object to hosting polluting infrastructure that benefits distant cities, but a controversy in India flips that script. A public hearing about installing massive coal plants near the city of Nagpur descended into chaos as villagers who previously protested the plants welcomed the jobs they supposedly would provide. Environmentalists blasted the gathering as biased and unlawful, and accused the plant owners of packing the hearing with their own employees. Read Manka Behl’s two pieces for The Times of India…
One year after journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered in the Amazon for reporting, the collaborative journalism network Forbidden Stories and a group of outlets have released a body of reporting and a powerful trailer that advance the work the two men set out to do.
Nearly 1 year ago, Dom Phillips & Bruno Pereira were assassinated.
Together with 50 journalists & 16 media outlets, we pursued their work in the Amazon because our future depends on it.
— Forbidden Stories (@FbdnStories) May 30, 2023
Tune in. Grist and WBUR’s ‘Here & Now’ are teaming up to do a live, weekly, nationally broadcast radio segment that will take a close look at a recent Grist story or investigation. Learn more.
Resources and Events
Global stocktake. The World Resources Institute is hosting an event about the first ever Global Stocktake at COP28. The event is in person in Bonn, Germany, and online. June 5 at 11:45am CET. Register.
Heat warning. The Society of Environmental Journalists has a new tip sheet urging journalists to explore local angles during what’s expected to be an extremely hot summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Check it out.
When disaster strikes. Solutions Journalism Network and a network partner have compiled a guide about how to report on a disaster that strikes home. Read the guide.
Jobs. The Guardian is seeking a commissioning editor for special series (environment). Grist is hiring a senior audience producer. WABE is seeking an environment reporter. The Bullard Center for Environmental & Climate Justice is looking for an environmental journalist. Mongabay is hiring a program manager (Africa).
Fellowships. The John Alexander Project is accepting applications for the 2023-2024 Above the Fray fellowship cycle. Apply by July 1. Learn more.
Grant. The Fund for Investigative Journalism is accepting grant proposals on a rolling basis for up to $10,000. Apply by September 15. Learn more.