Social media vital to reporting environment news

At the Kriel coal-fired power station, South Africa
At the Kriel coal-fired power station, South Africa Skyler Reid

While a conference on climate change is taking place in Morocco, three journalists, from Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa respectively, discuss what it means to be an environment reporter and the priority newsrooms give to news on environment.


African Media & Environment
African Media & environment reporters

Atâyi Babs, from Nigeria, is the founder of Climate Reporters, a bilingual (English/French) online newspaper. Prior to that, Atâyi worked for RFI's Hausa service in Lagos.

Atâyi Babs @atayibabs
Atâyi Babs @atayibabs

Stellar Murumba, from Kenya, is a journalist with the Business Daily. She is also the cofounder and a member of the Environmental Journalism Society of Kenya.

Sipho Kings, from South Africa, is the environment reporter for the Mail & Guardian daily.

Newsrooms give too much importance to politics, says Stellar Murumba, and environment only makes it to the front page when there is a disaster.

Atâyi Babs agrees, environmental journalism occupies the backseat in the media landscape, both in Africa and the West. "Media is profit driven and environment just doesn’t sell!" he comments.

Stellar Murumba @thatstellar
Stellar Murumba @thatstellar

There is only a handful of environment reporters left in South Africa says Sipho Kings. Media houses do not have the resources to employ environment reporters and the lack of training of journalists covering environmental issues can lead to mistakes in reports.

Discussing which platforms work best for reporters to communicate their message, Babs, Murumba and Kings agree that Facebook stands out as the tool most used to engage with people.

Kings says that print media is vibrant in South Africa where readers still buy newspapers. According to Babs, there are now 120 million Nigerians using social media and a large portion of them connect through Whatsapp. “The information disseminated on Whatsapp goes far wider than any other medium”, he says.

Sipho Kings @siphomcd
Sipho Kings @siphomcd

Using local languages to reach the public proves to be efficient in getting the message across to listeners who do not relate to english. This is how local radio stations are useful. Kenya has 42 languages and there are over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria.

Babs asked Kings whether it is true that reporters in South Africa avoid investigating big companies involved in pollution or environmental disasters? Not in South Africa, replied Kings, where the companies are listed on the Stock Exchange but it is different in Angola or Mozambique where the media does not have the resources to conduct independent investigation and journalists are prone to intimidation.

You may follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt 

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