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Challenges Facing Environmental Journalism

By Cyprian Ogoti

As an Environmental journalist (EJ), one is expected to advocate for change to improve the quality of planet earth, this make a major obligation though a difficult one to achieve.  One should always on the front-line in educating people on the serious state of the environment and use the power of the news media to bring about changes to improve the quality of the air, water, wildlife and natural resources just to mention a few.

Painfully, despite the effort put all this goes in vain or unnoticed, convincing people about the importance of protecting the environment is a hard task which sometimes falls on deaf ears, in Kenya and all around the world.

The sad part is that many people are simply not interested; the society assumes that things like land, trees, plants, animals, and water resources – the resources they depend upon for their livelihoods – will always be there. Overuse or abuse of resources is not, most of the times, an important issue. Environmental Journalist is tasked on catching such audiences’ attention. Writing about the environment as a core issue for society sets numerous challenges for those practicing environmental journalism. Here are some of the challenges:

  1. Lack of environmental and scientific training. Reporters without specialized training might ignore complicated environmental stories altogether or, if they attempt them, the results might be less than satisfactory for readers.
  2. Limited access to governmental data on environmental conservation. When one tries to research for an environmental story, environmental journalists get difficulties in accessing information from both Government and private institutions.
  3. The existence of forest mafias threatens their professional activities as well as their private lives.
  4. Environmental journalists have to balance the inconsistency that comes as a produce of the short attention span that is affecting news consumers in a society that unfolds around consumerism combined with the fact that environmental stories are frequently complex and difficult to report.
  5. Citizens’ experiences of many environmental issues are mediated, in large part, by the interests of governmental agencies as well as the private sector (big corporations). These two spheres continually influence the media’s presentation of environmental issues putting at stake public perceptions.
  6. In recent years, it seems as though media interest in the environment has taken a backseat to other issues impacting the international scenario. Environmental journalists have to deal with the priority of other subjects such as terrorism, poverty, economy, politics, and international relations.
  7. Journalists have to face the lack of training, resources or support from news editorials or sponsors.

The recognition of these challenges and a solution to them will impact the creation of a collective dialogue and deliberation on environmental issues that are of broad public concern.

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