Climate Change. Nothing about this is easy. Set aside what’s happening to each of us in our private worlds. The problem of covering the climate crisis, as journalists, is immense. The scientific mechanisms are complex. The pace and trajectory are contested and unclear. The politics are fraught. The jargon is burdensome. The scale is overwhelming. The emotional balance between hope and despair is impossible to get right. Some of the crisis’s manifestations (the disasters) are breaking news; others are maddeningly wonky and nobody wants to engage. The scope of the possible suffering overwhelms our human brains. The truth of what will actually happen is unknowable. The job is to cover something that, for the most part, hasn’t happened yet.
Still, communicating about the climate crisis — factually, engagingly, effectively, and with rigor — is the most important job of our times. How do we do that? A narrative approach may be one key to communicating this crisis in a way that sticks.
But narratives can be difficult, especially when they concern science. How do you report the right details, and scenes, to drive a story? What makes a good story anyway? And what is the most effective form and structure for your particular subject? What research and data are crucial? How do you weave those in?
These and other critical questions about craft and science both will be the focus of this course. We’ll draw heavily on the expertise of a wide range of visiting journalists who will talk about the key stories that shaped their careers — including how they conceived and pitched those pieces. We’ll draw equally on scientists, who will share vital perspective on the failures of media, the incongruities of facts, and how to read deeply into the often-difficult-to-understand research that offers a key window into the changing environment but often doesn’t easily translate into clear, vibrant, dramatic prose. By the end of this term, we’ll practice and develop our own pitches, turn them into a spectacular magazine-style work, send that work out into the world, and try to get it published.