Audience apathy, resource challenges and restrictions, and fear of reprisal: new research reveals three major obstacles in climate reporting across South East Asia – even as we grapple with the harsh realities of climate change. The good news? ClimateXchange is here and hopes to change all that – not just in the region, but globally, writes Lucinda Jordaan.
As the world grapples with the effects and impact of climate change, a new report by a new journalism initiative reveals a media landscape fraught with challenges.
The inaugural Global Climate Journalism Insights: Southeast Asia report, authored by global journalism initiative climateXchange (cXc), and released this week, underscores three of the biggest obstacles to impactful climate reporting faced by newsrooms across Southeast Asia: the fight for reader attention, restricted journalistic freedom and a lack of relatability.
These insights come amidst the urgent need for local engagement on climate change, information about its causes, and its impacts – many of which are being acutely felt across the region.
According to The World Bank, 13 of the 30 countries most susceptible to the effects of climate change lie within East Asia and the Pacific. Impacts – flooding, tropical storms, heatwaves and ocean acidification – are predicted to lead to 7.5 million people falling into climate-related poverty by 2030, as a consequence.
Intelligence for the report was gathered from journalists attending a knowledgeXchange – cXc’s regional thought leadership workshop – as a prelude to WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Asia 2023, and at the conference itself.
Views from newsrooms across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam were represented in the publication, which was compiled by cXc Impact Manager Dr Carmen Nicoara.
“The standout insight from this report is the stark contrast we see in Southeast Asia—a region rich in environmental narratives, yet grappling with public disengagement,” says Nicoara.
‘Our task is to break this cycle of disconnection: we need a shift in storytelling. It’s become clear that for climate awareness to flourish, newsrooms in this region must come together, sharing strategies and stories.’
A global, relatable transition
The flagship initiative of new nonprofit Syli, climateXchange aims to kickstart a foundational transition in journalism. According to co-founders Tom Trewinnard and Fergus Bell, this will be achieved by focusing on local content about relatable real-world causes of climate change and the global movement towards a just transition to more carbon-conscious living.
The team hopes that by using a global network of content producers and by providing equitable access to trusted information, relatable impact and solutions will be fostered, empowering and engaging audiences at a local level.
ClimateXchange regional hubs have been established in Africa and Southeast Asia, with Europe following in early 2024, with further knowledgeXchange sessions in these key regions set to form the basis of future reports.
Global Climate Journalism Insights: Southeast Asia, the first piece of research from climateXchange, highlights the need for more collaborative, relatable coverage that transcends traditional forms of media and approaches younger, more digital-literate audiences.
“We’ve identified the key challenges in the region: the need for relatable climate journalism, engaging readers in a multi-platform world, safeguarding journalistic freedom, addressing resource and knowledge gaps, and innovating funding models,” says Nicoara.
“Our aim now is to foster a vibrant, collaborative environment, grounded in research. In this space, we’ll pivot between mapping and analysing regional challenges to crafting strategies that both engage audiences effectively and strengthen the capabilities of journalists.”
The lead initiative of new CIC non-profit Syli, ClimateXchange was founded in London by Tom Trewinnard and Fergus Bell.
Syli supports mission-driven journalism in service of informed audiences around the world by fostering new and forward-looking concepts, identifying sustainable financial models for journalism, and creating a healthier, more sustainable media ecosystem.
ClimateXchange stands on three pillars of complementary activities:
- contentXchange: A reporting and distribution hub where engaging, high-impact journalism on climate and the just transition can be created or shared for reuse and republication by global news media
- regionalXchange: A network of regional hubs where climate reporting is commissioned and cross-border and cross-regional collaborations are seeded
- knowledgeXchange: Where the process of ecosystem change begins and sustainability solutions for newsrooms covering the climate crisis are developed and refined
For further information contact Shereen Daver, ClimateXchange Programme Director, at [email protected]