Lessons from the Amazon: novel ways to report on the climate
David Hidalgo is an award-winning journalist and co-founder of Ojo Público platform in Peru. Based in Lima, Ojo Público is a non-profit investigative journalism website covering issues including human rights, corruption, drug trafficking, environment, health and transparency, particularly in the Amazon region.
Why climate reporting matters
- We are in the midst of a climate crisis: global temperatures are now more likely than not to breach 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming within the next five years, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
- Covering climate and the environment, particularly threats to the Amazon, is dangerous for journalists and activists: The Guardian contributor Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were killed in the rainforest last year.
- For journalists and newsroom leaders, getting audiences to engage with climate change stories can be difficult. Journalists in the Global South are already engaging with audiences to cover stories that affect their daily reality.
Watch David's seminar
5 takeaways from the event
1. Know your audiences and reach out to them. Stories involving the Amazon often neglect one of the most affected audiences of the region: Indigenous communities. Peruvian news site Ojo Público strives to bridge that gap by collaborating with local radio stations, many in Indigenous languages, to spread their reporting to often marginalised communities.
"We're interested in getting to audiences [in the Amazon] that are, for example, vulnerable populations that in the past didn't have access to these stories,” said Hidalgo. “We work in Spanish but we sometimes get our content translated to their languages." By translating their reporting into native languages, Ojo Público is able to spread their content while being accessible to their audiences.
2. Lean into transnational collaboration. In a region like the Amazon that is composed of an intersection of Indigenous communities in addition to being shared by eight countries, collaboration in reporting is a necessity. Hidalgo mentioned that to investigate the complex problems of the region, such as the illicit and criminal activities that take place, reporters have to go beyond their national borders.
“In order to explain these kinds of problems, you need to follow the complexity and you need to follow traces that are usually transnational,” said Hidalgo. “You need to cover this with the help of journalists in other countries, and eventually in the whole region.”
3. Make the most out of technology, data, and new tools. Hidalgo mentioned that a few years ago, a smaller outlet like Ojo Público would not have been able to do complex investigations. However, with technological tools being widely available, reporters are able to gather data and information, as well as access multiple databases.
“Technology gave us an opportunity to use new tools to investigate and analyse a huge amount of the data that could explain a complex situation,” said Hidalgo.
4. Stories can be improved with visuals and illustrations. Many of Ojo Público’s stories are creatively illustrated and heavily visualised with graphics and videos. They have illustrated their pieces with Midjourney, used striking illustrations, and grabbing graphics. Hidalgo said that this is to reach out to different audiences, as well as making the stories more accessible to them.
"We developed some interesting visuals because we understood that the current way to read information is very different depending on the audience: young people usually watch the videos and other people are interested in the graphics," said Hidalgo.
5. Journalists should put their safety first. "We have a strict policy of what you can do as a reporter when you go to a danger zone,” said Hidalgo. “You're never ready for these kinds of situations but you try to reduce the risk at maximum, and we train our journalists to not take irresponsible risks.”
Reporting on the Amazon is a dangerous and often deadly endeavour, and Ojo Público and its collaborators always strive for safe conditions by not sending reporters to the field without contacts or any previous preparation.
The bottom line
Covering environmental news is a collaborative process when it comes to translational areas. Newsrooms should always strive to think about their audiences and how to reach them better. While environmental stories may not always be the most popular, newsrooms can make them more appealing to audiences as to accurately represent their importance.
More on covering climate change and the environment:
- Read this piece by Marina Adami on the dangers of covering the Amazon.
- Read this article by Laura Oliver on covering climate change in the Global South.
- Check out this summary of our seminar with Jazmín Acuña from Paraguayan digital news outlet El Surtidor.
Part of our Global Journalism Seminars series.