Environmental Journalism. Debut Course

 Raul Cazan

Raul Eight years ago I had the chance, given by the Romanian Center for Independent Journalism, to carry out the first environmental journalism course. Every one labeled it “exotic” at the time, as environmental journalism was merely a theoretical twist for the Romanian media in 2005. “Interesting stuff, man, but get back to the real world,” friends used to tell me with a tap on my shoulder. In five years we shall see offsprings of journalism materials that will consider environmental risk and report on green business, I used to reply. Three years after, almost all media set up green coverage, environmental pages or eco-events. Now it’s a hype! – and despite the economic ripple all over the globe. From 2012 a more concise version of the course was taught in the Summer School “Agraria” in the University of Bologna, Italy.

This course sought to instill an environmental facet of reporting for young Romanian journalists. The core of the lectures consisted of the analysis of global and local environmental issues with the tools and instruments of the reporter. Key concepts such as media effects, media events or media salience have been molded on environmental aspects of today’s social and political life, enhancing a journalists’ bias on sustainable development and imposing the “language of risk”. In the coming years the course has been substantially enriched

Here is a “schemata” of the course. For a detailed syllabus, a reader and other materials please contact me via e-mail.

1. Environment and Journalism. This lecture sought to shed a light on the complex relationship between the media system in a country and the management of indicators describing uncertainty that environmental journalism requires.

2. Flow and Framing of Environmental Information. The cyanide pollution disaster from Baia Mare, Romania was an infamous illustration that helped students observe PR and communication strategies of the companies, institutions, NGO’s and mass media involved, as well as the international implications of such an incident.

3. Environmentalists and Their Communication. This lecture focused on Dieter Rucht’s brilliant analysis of Greenpeace and Earth First!’s organization and communication. A short presentation of an environmental national active network, Legambiente in Italy, concluded the lecture.

4. Reporting with an Environmental Bias. Sustainable Development. Media: an important actor that takes part in environmental conflicts, a watchdog that has to always raise the question “how risky?”.

5. Access to Environmental Information. This discussion was concentrated on a thorough analysis of the Aarhus Convention and its implementation in Romania. Questions of environmental law, public international law and transparency were also taken into consideration. The Bystroe Canal case mirrored the above mentioned theory.

6. Environmental Press and Environmental Reporting in the Mainstream Media. Students were presented a few tools of quantitative and qualitative media research methods. The media coverage of Dracula Park in 2002 has been a relevant case study in this respect (Raul Cazan – “Environmental Issues Covered in the Romanian Press – The Case of Dracula Parc”, MA Thesis, CEU, 2002). Agenda setting, framing and objectivity were the notions that we followed.

And it adds up:

7. Alternative Environmental Media.

8. The politics of risk. Discursive policy strategies: the GM (genetic modification) debate.

9. The Carbon Talk: carbon footprint, carbon trading, carbon sinks, carbon emissions.

10. The Media Flop: shale gas, open pit mining, biofuels, landgrabbing, food.

11. Reporting Climate Change. From glaciers’ melting to eco-chic and greenwash.

12. A Green Samizdat. Environmental organizations and communication during communism.