Despite South Africa being an extremely climate-vulnerable country experiencing rapid rates of warming and change, the South African public’s awareness and understanding of the climate emergency remains desperately poor. This is in good part reflected by inadequate coverage of the issue in our media, and translates into continued hesitance from policy makers and unwarranted continuing social license for the fossil fuel industry.
As Fossil Free SA, we have had a few engagements with the media, News24 especially, over the way they report climate and energy issues in South Africa. Now we have drawn up a Climate Media Resource Guide giving journalists key information they might need as they report on climate change and SA’s energy issues. Of course, XR did a great job of highlighting this issue when they protested outside News24’s HQ on Earth Day 2022.
Five media climate errors: How the SA media often misreports the climate crisis
- Missing the biggest story of our time: The SA media, as a whole, does not give audiences a full view of the extent and severity of the climate crisis.
- Insufficient reporting on climate change: XR captures this problem with their demand for ‘climate news every day’.
- Omitting crucial climate context: Reporting on the fossil fuel industry usually omits the climate context. But it’s now inaccurate – and a breach of press codes – for any story on coal, gas or oil to omit explaining the human, climate and environmental damage that would inevitably result from these activities.
- Economic inaccuracy: Reporting on the fossil fuel industry invariably focuses on the jobs and profit opportunities for a select number of people, but usually omits to account for the greater economic destruction caused by emissions.
- Siloed coverage: Otherwise excellent articles on climate change tend to be stuck away in the ‘environment section’ and do not make it to the top of home and front pages.
We aim to widely share this guide with media, and with journalism students. It’s not the end of our more critical engagements; but a new foundation for critical engagement.
As part of this guide, we’ve listed many local civil society organisations working in this space, but if you are part of such an organisation, you may want to adjust or refine the details we’ve listed for you, so do get in touch. The guide is a work in progress, and you’re welcome to offer any general comments.