SEJ Day 3: Religion and Solutions in Environmental Journalism

Hello SHE-J followers,

Day 3 of SEJ in Houston is well underway! I hope you are hanging in there with me as the conference hits the halfway point.

Today’s sessions pivoted towards practices of environmental reporting.

As part of my master’s program here at Mizzou, I am planning a professional project on how to make environmental news appealing to rural audiences.

I hoped today’s sessions would give me some material to work with, and they did not disappoint!

I began my day with a panel on religion-based reporting in environmental issues. The panel was moderated by freelancer Meera Subramanian, and featured Bee Moorhead of Texas Impact and Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech.

Left to right: Meera Subramanian, Katharine Hayhoe, Bee Moorhead

Talk of religious and environmental thematic overlap dominated the conversation. Hayhoe said her faith is what led her to climate causes.

Religion-cloaked climate denial is an American phenomenon that has spread globally with the internet. Hayhoe explained that there is no theological basis for climate denialism, which has emerged from political posturing.

Hayhoe said journalists need to redirect the conversation to Christian tenants like love. She also emphasized that journalists need to debunk religious climate arguments, and avoid labeling religious people as science denialists.

Moorhead highlighted the partnership opportunity with religious organizations to spread climate news. She mentioned interfaith power-and-light groups and Christian colleges as two institutions that work climate solutions from subtle religious framing.

Moorhead added that Talanoa dialogue questions (Where are we? Where do we need to go? How do we get there?) are effective in getting heartfelt climate answers from religious groups without causing eco-grief.

After lunch, I attended a panel on solutions journalism in environmental news. The panel was hosted by Cheryl Dahle of the Solutions Journalism Network, and included Mekdela Maskal of Covering Climate Now, Steven Bedard of bioGraphic Magazine, and Paola Rosa of the Uproot Project.

Left to right: Steven Bedard, Meskela Mascal, Paola Rosa, and Cheryl Dahle

The panelists said that while acknowledgement of climate change is growing, most people feel overwhelmed or hopeless about climate. Dahle reported that only 6% of people in a Pew study felt hope reading climate news, and only 55% of people trusted negative climate news.

Dahle highlighted mitigation, adaptation, and resilience as workable themes for engagement. She also suggested environmental journalists consider a supplemental role along with the watchdog: the guide-dog. “Where could we start to offer to to readers, more pathways that they can walk down and show them what’s possible?”

Mascal said a solid trick to look for solutions-based journalism is to categorize various types of solutions. She suggested thinking about labels like policy, organizing, and technical solutions is a great way to dig into a pitch.

And Rosa added that solutions-based reporting, like climate solutions, really requires sheer willpower and the ability to see bigger-scale issues.

Today held an enlightening series of talks. Can’t wait to hear more from the experts tomorrow, and take a mini-tour through Houston. Catch y’all then!

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