Climate-specific reasons help propel growth in journalism collaborations

New report from Center for Cooperative Media documents how news outlets are partnering to cover climate change

Stefanie Murray
Jul 17, 2020 · 4 min read

One of the things we do at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University is track journalism collaborations.

It’s part of our collaborative journalism program and we’ve been doing it since late 2016. We catalogue as many projects as we can in a publicly-available database and pay attention to trends.

One trend we noticed anecdotally in early 2019 was the number of climate change-related collaborations seemed to be ticking upward. Covering Climate Now launched and quickly became the biggest such collaboration on record, and we were regularly seeing others, both large and small.

And since climate change is (or will be) one of the biggest stories of most people’s lifetimes, we decided to take a look at how journalists are working together to tackle the topic and all of its related issues.

Based on findings from the Climate-Reporting Collaborations Tracker, the number of climate-reporting collaborations increased sharply in 2010 and again in 2019.

The result is a new paper we’re releasing today, researched and written by Caroline Porter, titled “Adapting to a changing climate: How collaboration addresses unique challenges in climate-change and environmental reporting.

This report is part of a series of research and guides related to collaborative journalism produced in 2020 by the Center, thanks to generous support from Rita Allen Foundation.

For her research, Caroline catalogued and assessed 40 climate-related journalism collaborations she identified from the last 12 years. She found that, indeed, the number of such partnerships has increased—especially since 2014—both in terms of projects that focused solely on climate change as well as those more broad in scope but with climate change as a recurring theme.

Through her analysis and interviews, she also found that there are some climate change-specific reasons that journalism collaborations make sense, outside of and above the traditionally-accepted reasons that news organizations enter into collaborative efforts.

Those reasons include:

: “There are at least three ways that collaboration can reduce the noise around issues of bias and mistrust that climate reporting can encounter: first, by humanizing the news; second, by pooling together media organizations’ trust and credibility; and third, by producing complex stories beyond the standard political narrative.”

: “One strength of collaborative journalism is that it allows individual news organizations to play to their distinct strengths. When a local news organization with a thick rolodex of on-the-ground sources can partner with a data- or visual-heavy news organization, the whole project benefits from stronger reporting on both fronts. With climate reporting this is especially crucial; working together can increase expertise and understanding for a subject that is complex, detail-driven and especially subject to the scrutiny and wariness of news consumers.”

: “Working together can move climate-change and environmental stories up the reporting agenda, expedite the reporting process, and often scale across audiences, leading to faster and more visible results.”

: “Just like rivers, fault lines and mountain ranges, climate stories pay no attention to borders, like state lines. Collaboration among newsrooms in different cities, regions, and states allows reporters to track stories that also cross these borders; collaborating across newsrooms allows journalists to tell more complete stories.”

: “ Working together creates natural checks and balances with the participation of scientists, on-the-ground journalists and diverse partner organizations. Collaboration can support a healthier ecosystem of climate reporting by decreasing the incidents of parachute journalism.”

Click here or tap the button below to download and read the full report.

👋 Want to learn more about collaborative journalism?

You can subscribe to our collaborative journalism newsletter for more updates and information. And of course, we invite you to visit collaborativejournalism.org to learn more about the topic of collaborative journalism — including our growing database of database of collaborative journalism projects, which is currently being updated.

is director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Contact her at murrayst@montclair.edu.

: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

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