A record number of newsrooms across the world have joined this year’s World News Day, a global day of action to promote the importance of fact-based journalism.
This year’s focus is a singular one, climate change. Wherever you are in the world, the climate is changing. Canada, where I live, is a country perhaps best known for ice hockey and the gift of our natural bounty. We possess a third of the world’s fresh water, mountains and three oceans to our west, north and east.
Our giant Prairie farms make Canada a world leader in the production and export of crops such as lentils, beans and chickpeas. Canada exports those crops to more than 120 countries, including refugee camps in the Middle East at cost basis.
But against such luck of geography, new challenges are being thrown up.
In British Columbia, Canada’s most western province, more than 600 people died from heat related illnesses this past summer. In the town of Lytton, B.C., a temperature of 49.6C was recorded. That comes in at 121.3F. This is the highest temperature ever recorded north of 45 degrees latitude.
Newsrooms around the world recognize that the news cycle forces journalists to confront such dramatic moments. That is why more reporters are being hired to focus exclusively on the environment.
Climate change has long been a political football, to be kicked around by different viewpoints. That is as may be, but while everyone is entitled to an opinion, facts are sacred and cannot be bent.
Instead of polarisation, fact-based journalism offers something much more precious. It offers solutions. And that is the intention of World News Day – to showcase our audiences, and what journalism is doing to respond to their demands.
An inherent advantage of quality journalism is that it hears and reports from all sides, including those who deny there is any climate change taking place. Such an exchange creates a market for ideas that provide a key benefit to society’s understandings of the issues that need to be confronted.
More than policymakers so often gripped by short-term domestic challenges, journalism offers the arena for long-term approaches, and for voices, especially the young, who are so moved by their environmental concerns.
The largest act of civil disobedience in Canada’s history is ongoing on Vancouver Island with more than 900 people arrested as protesters, many of them in their twenties, are fighting to protect old growth forest. No trees, no future is one of their slogans. The deep-seated, emotional defence of our land is a powerful force that news pages need to keep on the front pages.
Our reader research tells us that environment coverage is as important as health reporting, even during the global Covid-19 pandemic. It is in the interests of all countries to work together to reduce emissions and support radical industrial changes that will help the entire human race.
That is why journalists in more than 460 newsrooms across six continents have joined in this year’s initiative.
David Walmsley is the founder of World News Day, and the editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail, Canada.