Climate Journalism Tips from Climate Tracker’s Chris Wright

Christ Wright is the Co-Founder and Director of Climate Tracker, an aptly-named organization of young reporters who have tracked UN climate negotiations since 2015. Members of Climate Tracker have collectively published more than 6,000 articles in the national media of over 114 countries in more than 24 languages. Climate Tracker also providesother activities and services such as in-person training sessions in more than 30 countries, providing support to young journalists in developing countries with travel scholarships, running participatory media research, and many more.

On 19thOctober 2018, Chris Wright was invited to speak at one of the Malaysian Youth Delegation’s (MYD) training series titled “Climate Journalism at Conferences.” With Chris Wright being based in Borneo region, Sabah (East Malaysia), the logistics was convenient for the both parties. The three primary topics of that training series is: (1) How do you structure complex climate change related to content into easily digestible content for the larger masses to appreciate, (2) What are some tips and tricks to improve efficiency in on-the-ground reporting especially in environments such as the Conference of Parties (COP), and (3) What are some of the best practices for interviews in that environment.

Chris Wright sharing writing tips with the team

Given that the training session was only two hours long, it was structured such that number was the core topic and topics (1) and (3) were covered contextually. With that in mind here are some of Chris Wright’s tips and tricks to climate journalism in COP:

  • Don’t spread yourself too thin: This rule works in general but in the context of COP, it means that you should limit the amount of topics you pursue and the amount of events/negotiations you attend. Pursuing too many topics or attending too many events will cause burnout, making it difficult to coherently produce articles in a timely and efficient manner. Chris recommends the following pacing: One negotiation, one event, one side-show per day.
  • Reserve some time for writing: With the first tip in mind, time spent pursuing a subject or listening on negotiations could also be spent on writing. Chris recommends that you write in the afternoon, around lunch time. This is because this general hour would also be the time negotiators and other persons of interest would be free for interviews. Other benefits include getting articles prepared as you go along the course of the conference.
  • Make the effort to maintain contact: After interviewing a person and getting their contact details, it helps to maintain that relationship. This can help in many ways especially in the long run, because chances are that same person will be attending COP next year, and it helps to have a familiar face in a conference setting. It also helps to maintain that rapport because as an organization, other members may run into the interviewee or their organization and could benefit off of the relationship. Something as simple as a follow-up e-mail affirming the interview can go a long way especially since conferences are a setting where you see new faces every day.
  • Invest in appropriate clothing: Chris mentions that clothing should not be overlooked because they can affect your quality of life wherever the conference is being held. This is especially important this year because COP is being held in Poland in winter. Since the outside of COP buildings will be freezing but the insides will be heated, wearing an excessive amount of clothing to compensate for a good coat can quickly exhaust the amount of clean clothes you have available.
  • Have clear group and individual goals: Not everyone attending COP has the same goals even if they are from the same group or organization, and because of this it helps to know what you’re covering in COP, why you’re covering it, and how it relates to what your group is trying to achieve there. Knowing one’s own goals also has the benefit of contributing to individual member coordination, which allows the group to cover a diverse set of topics without unnecessary overlap.

Written by: M.O. Denney

Edited by: Jasmin Irisha

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