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Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

“Cue the creatives, the fluttering kites of the newsroom: the artists, graphic designers, performers, coders, gadget nerds, poets, cartoonists, and musicians who will harness the emotional craft of science and climate journalism to tackle an overwhelming beast.”

Climate change is so far-reaching that it’s taken the form of a giant kraken, piercing its tentacles into our politics, economics, health, food, and culture. Gone are the days of a siloed climate desk. Now reporters are blending across beats to tell important and comprehensive stories.

Many of these storytellers possess skills apart from the quintessential pen-wielding, note-taking reporter. They are what I call the “other minds.”

Cue the creatives, the fluttering kites of the newsroom: the artists, graphic designers, performers, coders, gadget nerds, poets, cartoonists, and musicians who will harness the emotional craft of science and climate journalism to tackle an overwhelming beast. They will look for inspiration outside the rigid boxes of standard news reporting to tell more visceral stories to a varied audience. They will lay their breadcrumb trail of ideas, covering the science and the hard-hitting impacts that drive decisions. Through their different forms, they will challenge the inflexibility of our thinking.

There are already examples of this across subjects — take, for instance, the all-covers issue of The Washington Post Magazine, with each cover depicting a different issue of climate change; The Guardian’s 360˚ experience of Hawaii, the extinct bird capital of the world; the nmusic of seismic activity in Oklahoma showcased by Reveal’s podcast; and The New York Times making methane emissions visible using highly specialized cameras.

The opportunities for exploration within the newsroom in 2020 will be endless. But one can always start by collaborating with artists and other creatives. For instance, the Financial Times has experimented with an audience-based game that explores the tensions in climate change discussions and decision-making. Another good example is Pop-Up Magazine, a live show where storytellers perform their stories on stage. In a show at the Sundance Festival, Vann R. Newkirk II, a politics and policy writer for The Atlantic, wrote and performed a popup piece called “The Tar River Refugees,” which covered the climate change refugee crisis occurring on the United States’ Atlantic coastline.

In all this interesting expression, we must be careful to include diversity in climate change reporting in 2020 so as to reach out to a global audience. We need different voices, faces, and words from different races, regions, genders, cultures, and religions to tell the stories of communities they resonate with, especially as issues of inequities and climate injustice take prominence.

Sonali Prasad is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.

Climate change is so far-reaching that it’s taken the form of a giant kraken, piercing its tentacles into our politics, economics, health, food, and culture. Gone are the days of a siloed climate desk. Now reporters are blending across beats to tell important and comprehensive stories.

Many of these storytellers possess skills apart from the quintessential pen-wielding, note-taking reporter. They are what I call the “other minds.”

Cue the creatives, the fluttering kites of the newsroom: the artists, graphic designers, performers, coders, gadget nerds, poets, cartoonists, and musicians who will harness the emotional craft of science and climate journalism to tackle an overwhelming beast. They will look for inspiration outside the rigid boxes of standard news reporting to tell more visceral stories to a varied audience. They will lay their breadcrumb trail of ideas, covering the science and the hard-hitting impacts that drive decisions. Through their different forms, they will challenge the inflexibility of our thinking.

There are already examples of this across subjects — take, for instance, the all-covers issue of The Washington Post Magazine, with each cover depicting a different issue of climate change; The Guardian’s 360˚ experience of Hawaii, the extinct bird capital of the world; the nmusic of seismic activity in Oklahoma showcased by Reveal’s podcast; and The New York Times making methane emissions visible using highly specialized cameras.

The opportunities for exploration within the newsroom in 2020 will be endless. But one can always start by collaborating with artists and other creatives. For instance, the Financial Times has experimented with an audience-based game that explores the tensions in climate change discussions and decision-making. Another good example is Pop-Up Magazine, a live show where storytellers perform their stories on stage. In a show at the Sundance Festival, Vann R. Newkirk II, a politics and policy writer for The Atlantic, wrote and performed a popup piece called “The Tar River Refugees,” which covered the climate change refugee crisis occurring on the United States’ Atlantic coastline.

In all this interesting expression, we must be careful to include diversity in climate change reporting in 2020 so as to reach out to a global audience. We need different voices, faces, and words from different races, regions, genders, cultures, and religions to tell the stories of communities they resonate with, especially as issues of inequities and climate injustice take prominence.

Sonali Prasad is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.

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