M100 Young European Journalists Workshop 2023
Reporting on Climate Change – and its Significance for Democracy
10 to 14 September 2023, Potsdam
Climate change is one of the greatest threats of the 20th century and affects all areas of our lives: society, economy, supply chains, work, agriculture, health, nutrition, mobility. It promotes fear, insecurity, social division, lack of freedom, migration, poverty – and thus also affects the state and resilience of democracy worldwide. Against this background, high-quality, fact-based and objective journalism is of particular importance. How climate change, its consequences and societal options for action are reported is crucial to addressing this major threat.
Meanwhile, voices are being raised: Journalism needs to change for this to happen. Because in journalism, especially in crisis reporting, events are traditionally reported on first and foremost, less on processes. In order to address the challenges associated with climate reporting and to work on them, the M100 decided to make this the topic of the Young European Journalist Workshop 2023. One of the aims of the M100YEJ was to make a contribution in the “European Year of Skills” to giving young journalists from all over Europe tools to report competently, factually and solution-oriented on the complex and existentially important topic of “climate change” in their everyday editorial work – whether in Tbilisi, Yerevan, Athens, Paris, Madrid or Berlin – and to enable the participants to engage in intensive and sustainable international networking.
For four days, 20 young journalists from 14 different European countries had the chance to learn and discuss about climate reporting and its role for democracy at the M100 Young European Journalist Workshop, which took place in the headquarter of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the Truman Villa, in Potsdam. A wide variety of aspects of climate reporting were discussed with various experts from the field. Starting with a critical reflection on past and current climate reporting with the consideration: What triggers climate reporting in readers? How do I have an impact with my reporting?
They learned what aspects constitute good and effective climate reporting and were also given best practice examples from a wide range of areas – from TikTok to in-depth reportage. In addition, participants were given the tools to also conduct in-depth, investigative environmental research themselves. The workshop was concluded with an introduction to cross-border journalism, which is indispensable for the topic of climate change, because climate change does not stop at national borders. With the workshop, M100 wants to make the opinion of young people from all over Europe (EU and Eastern Partnership countries) more heard, to support them in their professional development in the field of journalism, to teach them new skills, to bring them in contact with important key figures in the media industry all over Europe and thus to improve their opportunities and career perspectives.
SUNDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2023
The workshop participants were warmly welcomed by Belma Bagdat, Programme Coordinator Friedrich Naumann Foundation, at the beginning of the workshop in the Truman Villa at Griebnitzsee. Sabine Sasse, Head of Programme M100 Sanssouci Colloquium, underlined once again the chance that the workshop offers the participants to make a difference in the world and apply what they have learned in their home countries. In the round of introduction, the young journalists were asked to provide insights into why they are interested in climate reporting, what they want to create with it and what motivates them. The reasons were as varied as their national origins. They said they wanted to raise awareness of the issue, give a voice to people who otherwise would not have one, provide a comprehensive picture of the issue, advocate for social justice, help limit the damage already done, or explain the scientific dimension of climate change in an understandable way. The 14 women and eight men came from the following countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Clean Energy Wire Workshop
Why too little is being done despite clear facts: Climate communication that also helps media professionals AND What is happening in journalism? And what should happen?
In the first workshop sessions, participants received input from Sven Egenter, editor-in-chief of Clean Energy Wire CLEW. He drew attention to the fact that as early as 1986 the subject of “climate catastrophe” was on the cover of “Spiegel” magazine, so the subject of climate change is nothing new in journalism. He encouraged reflection on why it has nevertheless not reached the people at large for so long. The participants identified several causes: People do not care so much about what comes after they are gone.
There is a lack in professional media to cover climate change appropriately. People are tired of the reporting of the catastrophe. Professional media failed to connect the events which have impact on the people with climate.
The climate crisis is a wicked problem because it doesn’t resonate with human sensibilities about problems. According to the psychologist Daniel Gilbert, we consider a problem to be particularly urgent when it is: Personal, Abrupt, Immoral or Now (acute). The climate crisis is adversarial to each of these points: caused by everyone, indirect and slow, of unknown size and outcome and not easily visible and perceived as far away. Sven Egenter also drew the participants’ attention to various cognitive biases that need to be considered if you want to do good climate reporting.
He emphasized the importance of facing and knowing one’s audience. It is particularly important to think about the following points: Values, emotions, self-efficacy, and social norms. In an exercise, the participants examined their own values and those of their audience.
Furthermore, different argumentative patterns were presented which support and justify a delay of action to tackle climate change. Examples were: “Individuals and consumers are ultimately responsible for taking actions to address climate change” or “Other countries have no real intention of reducing their emissions and will take advantage of our action” (Link). The participants worked out strategies on how to address people who follow those argumentation patterns.
The role of the media regarding climate change was also discussed. CLEW identified four tasks: 1) Alert: Draw attention and focus to climate topic; 2) Inform with context, guidance, solutions; 3) Control the powerful, monitor the process; 4) Moderate society‘s debates.
In addition, Sven Egenter provided the participants with strategies and approaches that should be considered for an effective climate communication:
• The climate crisis is a wicked problem and a complex danger. Providing facts does not translate into climate protection.
• Delay is the new denial – be aware of discourses of climate delay and their use and consequences.
• Communicating effectively takes rational and emotional dimension.
• Consider audience, its values, emotions, and self-efficacy.
Fundamentals of international climate policy. Between cooperation and protectionism
Julian Wettengel, Correspondent of Clean Energy Wire, gave the participants an overview of key events and terms in international climate policy in the last part of CLEW’s workshop. A special focus was placed on the clean tech race. The participants were then asked to develop their own cross-border story in the area of international climate policy and should pitch it. The following headlines for possible stories have been developed, which may be realized in the future:
1. The big Effects of small Hydropower Plants
2. Carbon Trading takes Flight: Aviation Allowances in five EU Countries
3. Under the Black Sea: Green Energy connects European Union and Azerbaijan
4. From the Mine to your Hands – Is the potential environmental Impact of ‘Green’ Tech worth the Risk?
MONDAY, 11 SEPTEMBER 2023
Presentation of the EBU Report “Climate Journalism that works. Between Knowledge and Impact” AND Working Groups / What every editor needs to know about climate change
On the second day of the workshop, the participants reflected together with Prof. Dr Alexandra Borchardt, senior journalist, media researcher and member of the M100 Advisory Board, on what makes climate journalism so hard. For the EBU News Report she and her colleagues asked leading journalists and editors around Europe two central questions: What will it take for newsrooms to motivate decisionmakers and the wider population to act while adhering to the principles of independent journalism? And: Will media be up to the task? (Link).
The YEJ participants addressed 20 different challenges facing climate journalism, underscoring the complexity of the topic. The challenges can be summarized under the following headings: Organizational aspects (e.g., showing examples, solutions are not developed yet), context (e.g., political structures, business structures), emotional issues (e.g., priorities on different issues, anxiety, distrust) and knowledge (lack of transparency of data, it needs special education and knowledge).
A discussion about the role of journalism followed. Journalism operates in the tension between knowledge and impact. Many senior journalists believe that climate journalism should be neutral. However, the YEJ-participants unanimously had the opinion that journalism especially in the field of climate should have an impact on politics, the behaviour of the people and companies. This is not to say that climate journalism should not be fact-based, on the contrary, it is only to emphasize that this issue needs to be handled differently because of the challenges listed above and that journalists should think more about the impact of their stories. However, it is difficult to exert influence as a journalist if the texts concerning climate change interest few people and many do not read them.
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism asked in 2022 the question: “You said you actively try to avoid news on climate change. Why is this?” The top three answers were: 1) The news related to climate change is untrustworthy or biased. 2) I feel like there is nothing really new in the news related to climate change 3) The news related to climate change has a negative effect on my mood.
Professor Borchardt emphasised the importance of producing content for people we are not yet producing content for. To take a closer look at the third most common answer: Regarding climate change we often talk about sacrifice, costs and losses. Journalists shouldn’t deny the negative effects of climate change. Climate reporting can’t be always based just on hope, but it also has be based on hope. To say it with the words of Nanette Braun, UN Chief Communications Campaigns: “We want to hook people on hope, not on fear.” Journalists should have this in mind while writing about climate change. In her session, Professor Alexandra Borchardt also presented the key findings of the EBU News Report 2023:
• It is late: The media has only started to tackle climate journalism
• There is too much doom and gloom, too little focus on explanation and solutions
• Facts alone don’t help: the messenger is often more important than the message.
• There are too many silos: climate impact needs to be part of all beats
• Basic climate literacy is a must
• There is no one-size-fits-all model
• The media has a hard time living up to their own standards in sustainability
In a group session, the participants developed recommendations for editors, what measures and adjustments they need to take in their media company with regard to the newsroom, the target group, the content and the reporting in order to be able to do good climate reporting in the future. Below are the takeaways for climate journalism from the participants of the M100 Young European Journalists Workshop 2023:
• Solution-oriented journalism
• Giving people agency
• Try to make short video explainer (TikTok-channel of Deutsche Welle)
• Make it local, put it in global context
• Breaking up silos, interdepartmental approach
• Put your money where your mouth is: credibility in climate strategies in the media
• Importance of education (for all journalists)
• Central role of fact checking
• Speeding up coverage
• Find the news aspect and break it down
• Audience engagement: how to approach different audiences
• Know your audience
• Changing newsrooms, driven by the young journalists
• Simplify the story
• Climate literacy and intergenerational dialogue
• It’s about facts and emotions Inspiring hope
• Debunking lies and misinformation
• Journalism education and networks to inspire each other
• Platform literacy: can increase quality of the platform; TikTok also can be used to educate people
• Journalism has the power to educate people; go to the platform where the people are
• Collaborate for new ideas and approaches.
BEST PRACTICE (virtual)
Deutsche Welle: Planet A
How to tell Climate Stories in 30 Seconds
Input: Tatiana Kondratenko, Lead of Planet A TikTok Channel
Deutsche Welle decided to use a social media platform best which is mostly known for its their entertaining material, TikTok, explained Tatiana Kondratenko. DW’s TikTok channel (@dw_planeta) is an offshoot of their YouTube channel “Planet A”. The TikTok channel was launched in October 2022 and already has 40 million views and 75 thousand followers. The videos are only 45 seconds long. DW tries to present solution-oriented videos based on hope and focusing on the question “What can we do to tackle climate change?”
The channel works with different types of series such as short explanatory films with props or a Google Earth series with satellite footage to show examples of the negative impact of environmental pollution and climate change such as the fast fashion mountains in the Atacama Desert in Chille. In their experience community management and audience-driven content are key, and they try to answer questions or topics that come up in the comments and turn them into videos. Tatiana Kondratenko stressed that TikTok is becoming increasingly important, with many young people using it as a search engine and news source.
Dimitrios Theologidis, a participant from Greece, said about the best practice example of DW: “Tatiana Kondratenko’s speech made me realise that TikTok is not only an entertaining platform. It can also be successfully used to share educational content about climate change.”
AFP: The Planet Hub
Action-centered climate coverage
Input: Ursula Hyzy, Head of Planet Hub, France
In her presentation, Ursula Hyzy explained how AFP changed its climate journalism strategy from impact to action. AFP moved from covering the impacts of climate change to transition, adaptation and mitigation. AFP’s newsroom in Paris was reorganised into specialised hubs. To institutionalise climate journalism within AFP, a hub focusing on climate change and the environment, energy, industry, transport and agriculture was created, the Planet Hub. The Planet Hub focuses exclusively on the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in terms of countries and sectors that are most under pressure to find solutions. The Hub works closely with other sectors, which is important because climate is relevant to every beat. Ursula Hyzy identified some of the challenges the hub faces in covering climate change: different interests, pressure from lobby groups, greenwashing and a myriad of solutions.
To address these challenges, AFP outlined four pillars, guiding principles to continue to provide vibrant, strong and reliable coverage:
1) Keep boots on the ground
It is important to report on the ground – in remote places where negotiations are taking place (COP, IMF, G20, G7), from Latin America (mines, metals, batteries) to Europe (car shows, nuclear power plants) and at climate protests.
2) Keeping up with science
For the whole newsroom, a basic knowledge of the science of climate change is essential to cover the issue, as it affects everything from politics to the economy. That is why it is especially important for Planet Hub specialists to keep up with new studies and developments in international climate diplomacy.
3) Checking the facts
There is a lot of misinformation out there. AFP has 140 people dedicated to debunking fake news on any subject. It is important that every journalist has the skills to fact-check. AFP has published a free online training course specialising in verifying climate claims (Verifying climate claims (afp.com)).
4) Be aware of greenwashingAFP has trained hundreds of people in the newsroom on the pitfalls of greenwashing.
Fermín Grodira, a participant from Spain, stated: “The best practices of AFP ‘The Planet Hub’ stressed for me the importance of facts in climate journalism and especially the reliance on the broad net of reporters to be present where the climate news are. As a global agency, AFP can cover many angles of climate change and debunk misinformation quickly and in many languages.”
dpa: Cross-Departmental Climate Planning
Climate Reporting at the dpa: fact-driven, cross-departmental and neutral
Input: Christine Cornelius, dpa Panorama Editor and member of the interdisciplinary climate team
dpa’s best practice example focused on its cross-departmental approach to climate reporting. Christine Cornelius emphasised that climate could not be thought about and dealt with in just one department. That is why dpa set up a cross-departmental climate planning team in October 2021. It currently consists of five editors from politics, panorama, science and economics. The aim of the climate planning team is to identify potential climate issues, report on constructive solutions and try out new approaches. It benefits from dpa’s large network of correspondents around the world. dpa is trying to improve its climate reporting strategies by looking at its own data. Christine Cornelius showed the participants the results of an internal evaluation based on 198 news items from the summer of 2023.
The following conclusions could help improve climate reporting at dpa and beyond:
1) Features with a consumer perspective (focus on prices, tourism, food, shopping, health, money)
2) More proximity: What does it mean for me and my life?
3) Features on economic/political decisions, their consequences and controversies
4) More structured features (does not need to be as long digitally)
The effectiveness of climate reporting was an aspect that came up in the discussion. It is one of the biggest issues for climate reporting due to the breadth and abstraction of the topic. Showing the direct impact on people’s lives has the best effect, especially when it comes from a local area. According to photo editors, the images that interest the media the most are the extreme ones, the ones that show struggle, damage, dramatic scenes or the feelings of people who are struggling.
Juliane Maria Hilgert (Germany) took away a lot from the best practice and said: “I was very impressed by the depth of research and reflection in dpa’s best practice presentation. As a young journalist, it is motivating to see that the vision we have for the future of (climate) journalism is already being implemented in one of the leading independent news providers. However, the actual change that we wish to make must be made with the media customers, seeing as the vast majority of the news features used focused only on extreme weather events and the most dramatic pictures.”
TUESDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2023
How to lead an environmental investigation? Defining the genre and finding a story lead; Organizing your preliminary research; OSINT Tools for environmental investigations AND Resources and networks to develop your own cross-border environmental investigation
The next workshop session was led by Alexandre Brutelle. He is the co-founder of the Environmental Investigative Forum (EIF) in Paris, a participant of M100YEJ 2016, and shared his experience and knowledge about conducting an environmental investigation.
Investigations often sound exciting, but they are hard work, very structured and, like many things, start with an idea, an idea about a topic, he explained. You don’t need to be a whistleblower to do good environmental investigative journalism. You just need to know where to look. Alexandre Brutelle has a lot of experience of where to look and what data and facts can be used as a starting point for research. He presented several techniques for getting good ideas for environmental investigations.
The following techniques can be useful:
• Completion: studying an unexplored angle linked to an issue
• Follow-up: following up a previous investigation
• Geographical transposition: relocating a known issue to another region or country
• Sectoral transposition: transposing a known issue within the same sector (looking at competitors), transposing an issue to another sector
• OSINT: investigating an issue using specific open-source tools
However, it takes more than a good idea to conduct an environmental investigation. Mark-Lee Hunter did a survey with many investigative journalists around the world and coined it as an almost scientific approach. It requires the following elements 1) It is a deductive approach. 2) It has a hypothesis. 3) It has a methodology. 4) It uses subsequent tools (e.g., data analysis tools). Thanks to the added value of the investigative journalism approach, it is possible to uncover dysfunctions and/or public and private enablers that are responsible for the climate crisis and, more generally, for environmental scandals as a whole.
As the workshop progressed, participants were shown how to use Google Advanced Research to get more accurate data in a short time. At the same time, Alexandre Brutelles emphasised that journalists should not rely solely on Google as a search engine, as useful data is often not listed. He encouraged participants to think outside the box and think about what databases might contain data of interest and search for it. Here are some tips for advanced Google searches:
• Search for precise and exact keywords using the abbreviation: “word 1”.
• Combine multiple keywords: “word 1” AND “word 2” AND “word 3” AND “word 4”.
• Ability to exclude certain words using the -MOT1 acronym.
• Search by time, in the advanced settings of the browser.Search by url or domain = site:[url/domain].
• Search for specific types of data: filetype:pdf ; filetype:xlsx ; filetype:csv ; filetype:jpg etc.
When good data is found, it is often not yet a story or a new discovery. It is about overlaying data and finding cross-references. With maps of nature reserves on one side and maps of mines, fracking areas and oil companies on the other, it was vividly demonstrated what information can be gained by simply overlaying one on top of the other. The workshop concluded with guidance on funding for environmental research projects. During the workshop, the participants also looked for initial clues for future investigations and developed ideas on which databases and sources might be of interest.
The day ended with a visit of the new dpa newsroom in Berlin’s former newspaper quarter. Patrick Neumann, head of dpa-academy, showed the young journalists the newsroom and the TV studio of dpa. Afterwards they got a small workshop about “fact checking” by dpa experts, followed by a get-together where thy could connect with young dpa colleagues.
WEDNESDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2023
(Not) the same story everywhere: Climate change as a topic for cross-border journalism
In the morning of the fourth and final workshop day, participants had time to prepare their presentation for the M100. In the afternoon, Angelina Davydova, climate project coordinator, and Iryna Ponedelnik, climate project manager for “online journalism in depth” at n-ost, a Berlin based NGO for Eastern Europe Reporting, gave the participants input on cross-border journalism (presentation here). Climate change does not stop at national borders. Therefore, climate journalism is cross-border by nature. That is why it is important if you are a climate journalist to know how to start and run a cross-border project. Angelina and Iryna shared their insights on how to get funding for these projects. In different group sessions, the young journalists developed ideas for possible transnational projects. The following ideas were presented and discussed:
• Illegal waste shipment
• Food industry
• Ghost fishing
• Long-term environmental impact of the war in Ukraine on the Black Sea
• EU natural gas imports from Azerbaijan
All ideas involved more than two countries and the trainers were able to give valuable advice after the presentation of the projects. Below is a guide of questions to help you get started with a cross-border journalism project:
1. What exactly is the topic? Why does it have to be transnational? Why are these specific countries involved?
2. What’s the novelty factor? Why do you want to do it now? What’s your initial hypothesis?
3. Who is in your team? Representation of diversity/various skills
4. Timetable/schedule of activities (better be realistic). Always allow more time than you think. Allow for translation/editing/further editing in other languages etc.
5. Research what has already been written/done on the topic/region. How does your project relate to similar projects, why is it a development?
6. Show that preliminary research has been done.
7. Budget: realistic, but also according to funding rules/daily rates etc. unfortunately many foundations expect different fees/payment/daily rates/compensation for travel/food etc. different countries.
8. Who are your preliminary media partners? Better a wide range in many countries and languages.
9. Why is your project great and why do you love it?
10. Structure, rationale, logic
THURSDAY, 14 SEPTEMBER 2023
The seminar concluded with the participation at the international media conference M100 Sanssouci Colloquium, entitled “Between Ambition and Disarray – The Future of Democracy”. After the opening speech by the Indian author and essayist Pankaj Mishra and the first Plenary Roundtable discussion, the 20 young journalists presented the result of their work to the plenary, consisting of 70 international, leading representatives of media, political institutions and academics.
In summary, a whole range of insights emerged from the workshop for the participants, including:
• Climate change is not a regional or national issue, so cross-border perspectives and projects are worthwhile to capture the big picture.
• The quality of reporting does have an impact on democracy, both have a profound impact on each other.
• Example Georgia: The country confronts challenges related to media independence, where the media is often either controlled by the government or the opposition. Consequently, citizens lack access to unbiased information, eroding trust in the media. Journalists are often directed on what to report and say. Because the media largely echoes government officials’ statements, people remain uninformed about climate change.
• It is important for journalists to master certain tools to report on climate change.
• Climate change is still being reported as a “breaking news” story. But the climate crisis is a developing story, and the media should allocate resources to provide consistent coverage of climate change.
• While climate change effects are visible, journalists are still reluctant to connect the dots. Media need to be more upfront and inform the public on the climate change effects, providing local context, guidance, and community-led solutions.
• A huge literacy gap in climate change science prevails among journalists. It is time for newsrooms to step up and proactively provide scientific training for journalists and other news workers.
• Incorporating science and technology newsrooms can foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
• The role of the media extends beyond mere reporting; it should actively seek solutions.
• Whilst Western Europe (read here: countries with a long-standing democratic tradition and emphasis on free press) still is not perfect at climate reporting, their faults are not linked to their lack of democracy. Perhaps a content analysis of climate reporting, especially in states experiencing democratic backsliding, could illuminate and amplify the interconnected nature of the two.
• Climate reporting, if focused only or too much in making governments and companies accountable for their climate misbehaviour and greenwashing, can build more distrust in the regular democratic process. If the coverage is more balanced, focusing also on local issues (without forgetting the big global picture) and on local solutions, it might help show that democracy can work in other ways.
• Cross-border investigations, providing diverse viewpoints, can protect journalists from local conflicts of interest.
Media covering about the M100YEJ:
Der Tagesspiegel/PNN, 12.9.2023: Wie geht guter Klimajournalismus?
Deutschlandradio Kultur, 14.9.2023: Internationaler Klimajournalismus – Junge Medienschaffende engagieren sich
A big thank you to our motivated participants: Esmira Aliyeva (Azerbaijan), Ia Asatiani (Georgia), Rafael Correia (Portugal), Giorgi Dvalishvili (Georgia), Veronica Gennari (Italy | France), Eneya Georgieva (Bulgaria), Rima Grigoryan (Armenia), Fermin Grodira (Spain), Juliane Maria Hilgert (Germany), David Ilieski (North Macedonia), Belle de Jong (The Netherlands), Mariam Kukhilava (Georgia), Miray Önsal (Turkey), Chiara Pertile (Italy), Friedrich Steffes-lay (Germany), Dimitrios Theologidis (Greece), Francesca Trinchini (Italy), Sofia Turati (Italy), Daria Zelenska (Ukraine | Spain) and a special thanks to M100 assistant Florentin Siegert, who has run the workshop perfectly.
The workshop was supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government, and Journalismfund Europe.