Reporting on Climate Change

Published: 9.29.2018
Level 6   |   Time: 3:14
Accent: American
CBC (9.20.2018)

The BBC is no longer requiring reporters to give a voice to climate change deniers.


triangle Directions

  1. REVIEW the vocabulary / background.
  2. WATCH the video.
  3. ANSWER the questions.
  4. CHECK your answers. (Show Answers)

triangle Vocabulary

  • rocked [v] - shocked and upset
  • rolled into [exp] - arrived
  • hit [v] - arrived
  • making 'x' far from simple [exp] - making 'x' complicated
  • hoax [n] - fake, false information
  • so called [exp] - claimed but possibly fale
  • clap trap [n] - nonsense
  • high profile [adj] - well known
  • car crash interview [exp] - disaster interviews
  • skeptic [n/adj] - doubter/doubting
  • generated [v] - produced
  • crib sheet [n] - how to guidelines
  • guidelines [n] - basics of how to do something
  • pick up [n] - momentum, popularity
  • transparancy [n] - honesty, showing everything
  • cynical [adj] - doubting strongly
  • nuanced [adj] - differing details
  • get your head around [exp] - understand
  • rookie [n] - first-year
  • mess up [v] - confuse
  • tricky [adj] - difficult, not simple
  • sensible [adj] - reasonable
  • straightforward [adj] - direct
  • underlying [adj] - reasons for something
  • bear traps [n] - questions to make someone fall
  • felled [v] - failed, fell down
  • tendency [n] - pattern, habit
  • overwhelming [adj] - extremely strong
  • temptation [n] - negative pull, attraction
  • dynamic [n] - way of doing things

[n] - noun,  [v] - verb,  [adj] - adjective,  [exp] - expression

triangle Questions

  1. Why did this become a story?
    The BBC changed their rules for reporting on climate change.
    The BBC changed their rules for reporting on politicians.
    The BBC changed their rules for reporting on storms.
    The BBC changed their rules for all reporting.

  2. What has the BBC decided?
    They should always interview people on both sides of the issue.
    They don’t need to include climate deniers in stories for balance.
    They should avoid car crash interviews.
    Interviewers should have more training on climate change.

  3. What is a car crash interview?
    The interviewer talks about a car crash.
    The guest wasn’t informed on the topic.
    The interviewer wasn’t informed enough on the topic.
    The interviewer doesn’t challenge what the guests say.

  4. What basic information was on the 4-page crib sheet?
    Guidelines on how to interview guests.
    Guidelines on how to report on storms.
    Guidelines on how to report climate change.
    Guidelines for balanced reporting.

  5. What kind of reaction has the story generated?
    There was quite a big pick up of the story.
    No one really noticed the story.
    It was covered by a lot of national news channels in the UK.
    It was covered by a lot of national newspapers in the UK.

  6. Why is reporting on climate change so challenging?
    There’s a lot of misinformation online.
    It’s a difficult, nuanced subject to report on.
    The details are easy to understand.
    There’s not a lot of transparency.

  7. What are some of the details outlined on the crib sheet?
    The key, underlying science of climate change.
    How to moderate an interview with differing opinions.
    The bear traps that have caught reporters before.
    The specifics of hurricane science.

  8. What does the interviewee believe about good news reporting?
    T.V. journalists are tempted to show both sides (conflicting views) in their reports.
    Newspaper journalists are tempted to show both sides (conflicting views) in their reports.
    T.V. and Newspaper journalists SHOULD show both sides in their reports.
    T.V. and Newspaper journalists SHOULD NOT show both sides in their reports.

triangle Discussion

  1. Do you think the news should present opposite opinions in one report (i.e. including skeptics or cynics)?
  2. How can news reporting be straightforward and objective?
  3. Is it sensible for journalists to have training before reporting on specific topics?

triangle Script

“The wind is brutal, the water is rising…”

Two intense and deadly storms rocked the globe this week.

“Typhoon Mangkhut has rolled into Hong Kong…”

Even before the latest storms hit many people were asking the same key question:

“Is climate change making hurricanes worse? Yes.”

The scientific debate surrounding climate change may be over.

“The facts are crystal clear: climate change is real.”

But not everyone accepts that, making the challenge of reporting on such a charged issue far from simple.

“All of this with the global warming and the that… A lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money making industry, okay?”

This month the BBC surprised some by telling their journalists they don’t need to include so called climate deniers in their stories for balance.

“Uh, I’ve heard what Al Gore has to say and it’s the same old, uh, clap trap.”

So what reaction is the BBC’s move getting?

It’s been in a bit of trouble over the last sort of five to 10 years, where there’s been some pretty high profile examples: what we might call a kind of car crash interview - where they’ve had situations where the presenter of the show had been sort of not informed enough on the topic and hadn’t challenged some of the climate skeptic guests.

What kind of reaction has it generated?

Well, the story that I wrote for - Carbon Brief, we obtained the four-page, what they call a crib sheet, which is effectively guidelines on how to report climate change and also revealed that they were going to be offering one-hour training courses to journalists. And actually, it did have quite a big, um, pick up. It had a lot of coverage, so a lot of the national newspapers in the UK covered this story, and I was a little bit surprised by that.

As journalists, we’re all consumed right now with the need for greater transparency to explain our work to a cynical public. Does this help or hurt that effort, in your view?

In my view, I think it does help, I mean I’ve reported myself on climate change and on climate science for more than a decade and it’s a difficult, nuanced subject to get your head round sometimes. And there’s many… there’s a lot of misinformation out there, particularly online, so it’s quite easy for sort of rookie journalists and non-specialist subjects kind of mess up the details. And that’s kind of understandable because it is tricky. And I think it does… it is a sensible move to produce what is actually quite a simple, straightforward four-page document just to sort of outline some of the key underlying science and also some of the sort of bear traps, if you like, the things that some of the reporters have slipped down on and felled on before.

And is it also our tendency really to make sure that we have multiple voices in the stories as a kind of a default?

With something like a scientific issue where there’s overwhelming evidence that the world is warming and humans are responsible in the modern era for that warming. That the temptation amongst editors and journalists is to get a he said/she said dynamic within say a TV interview, or even an article that they’re writing, and I think that dynamic and that sort of instinct amongst journalists to present both sides of the story has caused a lot of these problems over the years.

Leo, good to talk to you. Thank you.

“Uh, I’ve heard what Al Gore has to say and it’s the same old, uh, clap trap.”