How Well Does the Media Cover the Climate Movement?

Activists are newsmakers, just like politicians, and deserve accurate, rigorous coverage.

**The Covering Climate Now team is deeply saddened by yesterday’s shootings in Atlanta. Though authorities have not yet determined a motive for the shootings, the rise of Anti-Asian racism and hate-crimes in America is heartbreaking and unacceptable. We express solidarity with the Asian American community and call on leaders in all circles to stand against hateful rhetoric.**

March 17, 2021

This Friday, March 19, thousands of young activists around the world will march and strike for climate action as part of Fridays for Future, a movement launched by Greta Thunberg and other organizers. Events are planned on five continents. The theme: #NoMoreEmptyPromises. “Those in power continue to only deliver vague and empty promises for far off dates that are much too late,” reads a statement by Fridays For Future. “What we need are not meaningless goals for 2050 or net-zero targets full of loopholes, but concrete and immediate action in-line with science.”

For some journalists, covering activism presents an uncomfortable dilemma. Too much coverage might come across as cheerleading or make journalists look like they are activists themselves, contradicting institutional notions of neutrality. A reporter’s job is to cover the news, the argument goes, not boost one side or the other.

Fair enough. But activists are newsmakers—just like the politicians, scientists, and corporate officials we cover all the time.

Youth-dominated groups have upended global climate politics over the last two years and injected a much-needed emphasis on environmental justice into the public conversation. Whether by scolding jet-setting elites at Davos for their obliviousness, as Thunberg did, or occupying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol office, as Sunrise Movement activists did to demand that Democrats walk their talk on climate change, youth activists have forced the climate issue onto government and, yes, media agendas around the world.

Read Mark Hertsgaard’s full column, about how journalists can improve their coverage of activism, here.


REMINDER: April Joint Coverage Week. Per our announcement in February, CCNow’s next joint coverage week is set for April 12-22, in the lead up to Earth Day and President Biden’s global climate summit. Our theme of coverage is “Living Through the Climate Emergency.” In addition to reporting the science that calls today’s circumstances a climate emergency, we encourage partners to run human-centered stories drawn from every beat in the newsroom. To help journalists prepare, we’ve created a new reporting guide, which unpacks what we mean when we say that climate is a story for every beat.

**Keep an eye out Thursday for an email previewing some of the great content our partners are planning for the week. And if you know what you’re planning for the week and haven’t been in touch, send an email to!**

March 25: South Regional Training. The next in our new series of region-specific events, focused this time on the South, will be held March 25. Similar to our February Talking Shop, “Boosting Your Climate Confidence on Every Beat,” we’ll offer basics on the science, politics, and economics of climate change, as well as ideas for how to tell human-centered stories that will engage audiences. Panelists will include top-notch journalists from Southerly, WCBI-TV in Mississippi, and The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, along with guests from Louisiana State University and Mom’s Clean Air Force. The webinar is set for March 25 at 1:30pm Central time, 2:30 Eastern. Check out the panelists and RSVP here…

**And check out this recap of our first region-specific event, which focused on the Great Lakes, with stellar journalists from Wisconsin Watch, ProPublica, Bridge Michigan, Minnesota Public Radio, and Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television.**


  • This week, CCNow’s lead media partner The Guardian launched a new series called “America’s race to zero emissions.” With President Biden vowing the country will reach zero emissions by 2050, the series examines just how much life in the country will need to change to get there. “Landscapes from coast to coast would be transformed, carpeted in wind turbines and solar panels, with enough new transmission lines to wrap around Earth 19 times,” reads the inaugural story in the series. “The populace would whiz past in their electric cars, to and from homes equipped with induction stoves and heat pumps. The air would be near-pristine. Hundreds of thousands of people who would have prematurely died from the toxic fossil-fuel age would still be alive.
  • On Monday, the Senate confirmed New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland to the position of Interior Secretary. Haaland becomes the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency and, as Reuters reports, will have “a central role in President Joe Biden’s sweeping plans to fight climate change.” Leaders and tribe members described Haaland’s confirmation as a step forward in the country’s long and troubled history with 574 federally recognized tribal nations—and hoped that her leadership will open the door to addressing longstanding issues of environmental racism.
  • For CBS News, correspondent Ben Tracy visits a school district in Arkansas that installed solar panels in an unused field and to form a canopy over the school entrance—and then used revenues from electricity generation to boost teachers’ salaries by up to $15,000 per year. More than 7,000 schools across the country have also installed solar panels—an increase of 81 percent in five years—but Tracy says Batesville, Arkansas is the only district that’s “turned panels into paychecks.”
  • For four weeks, the majority-Black residents of Jackson, Mississippi have been without potable water. The crisis is evocative of similar environmental injustices elsewhere—in Flint, Michigan, for example—but, as Slate explains, it is also indicative of crises to come as a result of climate change. It was the same storm that shut down Texas last month that kicked off the Jackson water crisis, and the response so far has shown clearly how poorly equipped governments are to respond to climate disasters.
  • Biodiversity loss is both a result and a driver of climate change, and a new initiative, led by Britain, Costa Rica, and France aims to protect at least 30 percent of Earth’s land and water by 2030. As The New York Times reports, Indigenous peoples the world over have long been cut out of conversations and policymaking on this subject, but peer-reviewed science has concluded that they’re the best stewards of tropical forests  and could help lead the way in fresh efforts to protect the planet and stave off climate impacts.
  • Louisiana’s southern “boot” loses a football field’s worth of land every hour, and by 2050 the state could lose fully one-third of its coastline, all while badly damaging local ecosystems, decimating the state’s tourism revenues, and surely forcing millions of people to leave their homes. Grist reports that the state plans a series of years-long, billion-dollar-plus projects to fix this, and this month the US Army Corps of Engineers greenlighted the first of those, which will harness force from the Mississippi River to build up new land along the state’s shoreline. The money to fund the project is coming from remediations that BP made in the aftermath of the oil giant’s catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.


The following stories deserve special attention and consideration for republication and/or rebroadcast by CCNow partners:

For partners: to submit stories for sharing, please use this Google Form. As always, instructions for republishing and the full list of stories available for republication can be found in our Sharing Library.


Climate Matters in the Newsroom online class. CCNow partner Climate Matters in the Newsroom, on March 18, is launching a free, online “Climate Reporting Masters Class.” Per Climate Matters: the course is designed “to help journalists up their game in incorporating climate change into their reporting on every beat. The Master Class is organized as topical modules led by top experts that journalists can engage with at their own pace and on their own schedule. Each module includes short videos and online resources to inform and inspire climate reporting. There will also be monthly virtual live events on hot topics. Viewing eight or more modules and attending at least one live event earns a climate reporting certificate from Climate Matters in the Newsroom.” Learn more and sign up here…

The Uproot Project launch. This Saturday, March 20, CCNow partners Grist and Atmos Magazine will hold an event launching a new initiative to increase diversity in the climate and environmental reporting fields—critical, especially at a time when communities of color typically bear the brunt of climate impacts. The event will feature a conversation between veteran journalist Julian BraveNoiseCat and Yessenia Funes, of Atmos. Learn more and register here…

The Nation hosts Maine State Sen. Chloe Maxmin. As part of the “Conversations with The Nation” series, on March 24, the magazine’s publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel will host Maine State Senator Chloe Maxmin, who, as a vocal proponent of the Green New Deal in a rural, working class district, unseated the state’s GOP minority leader—challenging conventional wisdom that Green New Deal support can be toxic for Democrats. Check out the event and register here…

Climate journalism collaborations workshop. On March 12, CCNow partners Climate Central and the Center for Cooperative Media held an online workshop on “to discuss best practices for beginning and maintaining collaborative projects and to hear from experts and journalists who have created successful projects across media outlets.” A video recording of the workshop and compiled examples of excellent climate journalism collaborations are available here…

Job openings. The New York Times is hiring a deputy editor for its Climate Desk, based in Washington, DC. And The Washington Post is hiring a climate solutions editor, also based in DC. The Post is also hiring a deputy weather editor for its famed Capital Weather Game.

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