The following post was written by DC EcoWomen blogger Dawn Bickett
Over just a few years, the way people find and consume news has changed dramatically, and so have the environmental problems that the news covers. At the May Ecohour, seasoned journalist and Deputy Editor of ClimateWire Lisa Friedman detailed her experience in the world of environmental journalism, and shared her thoughts on making environmental news relatable.
Early in the evening, Lisa surprised the crowd at Teaism with the details of the unusual path she took to her position at a climate-focused policy publication. While she currently covers the business and politics of climate change for ClimateWire, she spent years on the prison and crime beat in California and Nevada. Even her first move to Washington, DC was to be the Washington bureau chief for the Oakland Tribune, not to cover environmental issues.
But in making the transition from reporting on crime and politics to writing stories about international climate negotiations, Lisa made the discovery that her new beat was not so distant from her previous ones. “Sometimes I don’t feel like I am writing about climate change at all,” Lisa explained, pointing out that climate news lays at the intersection of many different policy areas, from immigration law to trade.
The trouble with environmental beats, she noted, was not that they weren’t relevant, but rather that they had always had a difficult time being valued.
What remains most meaningful for Lisa in her reporting, and what she feels turns climate change into a story people connect with, is the ability to go to places and talk to people about their problems. Lisa has interviewed a community downhill from a melting glacier in Nepal and met families trying to pick up their lives after floods in Bangladesh. By being able to report on conditions in the communities most vulnerable to the impacts climate change, Lisa finds she is able to make a compelling story without a PowerPoint presentation or science lecture.
After Lisa finished her talk, the audience was full of questions about her travels how to find and tell a good story accurately and powerfully. Lisa left us with two fundamental lessons from her 14 years as a journalist:
1. If you are respectful, people are responsive.
2. People want to tell their stories. Don’t be afraid, just ask!