Media asked to do homework on climate change: research, avoid sensationalism

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 April)- Research is important in reporting about the environment, Milet Mendoza, an independent development worker, told participants of the 9th Mindanao Media Summit on Friday.

Because their work reaches a wide audience, she said that journalists should diligently research first to convey the facts about climate change and to avoid raising false alarm on the issue.

“We need to let them know so we can draw their actions to adapt to the situation, not to scare them,”
she added, challenging the media to be sensitive about the implications of the information they tell the public.

“Avoid sensationalism, go back to research-based evidence to avoid causing anxiety,” said Mendoza, one of the seven speakers on Friday.

The media summit, which is set to end today (Saturday), carries the theme “Communicating the Impacts of Climate Change.”

Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering, vice chair of the Commission on Climate Change, who was supposed to speak on “Reducing Vulnerabilities to Climate Change Impacts,” was unable to come on Friday.

Sec. Herminio Coloma, chief of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office, also served as resource person on Friday. He later held a meeting with workers of the Philippine Information Agency based in the different parts of Mindanao.

Coloma, among other things, spoke about the need to counter the “culture of complacency” on climate change with heightened awareness.

He also urged the local government units and communities to build their capacities so they can effectively respond to the challenges of climate change.

Coloma stressed there is no need to set up separate permanent offices for agencies focusing on climate change, saying that all offices should ensure that resiliency to climate change impacts be embedded in the way they do their functions.

For example, he said there is a need for the local engineer’s office to ensure that infrastructures they build will be resilient or strong enough to withstand earthquakes or typhoons or any other disasters that may strike.

Mendoza urged the media to be careful in presenting evidence “and not rush as it might cause more harm than good.”

She also called on the media to be comprehensive in their reporting and offer the public information on options that they can take to adapt to climate change.

Mendoza also cited the need to communicate to the grassroots sectors, specifically fisher folk and farmers, whom she said will be greatly affected by climate change.

She reminded that there is a need for organizations, including the media, to make communities be aware of available resources to take actions on the impacts of climate change.

Mendoza said one of the more important messages to convey “is hope that they have the capacity to help themselves.”

She said they are presently helping assess vulnerabilities, exposures and hazards of communities in the Davao region through church-based organizations like the Basic Ecclesiastic Communities (BEC), the grassroots organization of the Catholic Church.

Mendoza stressed there is a need to communicate information on climate change effectively.

“Be clear. Translate to terms that is understandable to the public, do your home work as professionals,” she said.

Mendoza added that there is also a need to choose the right medium to reach them, adding that they used visual resources to raise their point in some of their engagements.

But Mendoza stressed “that to counter political biases and indifference, there might be a need to present Geographic Information System-information based evidence to let public officials see the real situation.”

She offered no opposition to media organizations doing humanitarian missions but stressed that they should be transparent about the details of the financial resources raised for the humanitarian work.

She also asked the media to be choosy on the kind of humanitarian work and the extent of time they spend on it.

H. Marcos C. Mordeno, chair of the Mindanao News and Information Center Service Cooperative, said with collective efforts, “the environment in Mindanao, life in Mindanao can be good again.”

He noted that journalists must acquire or learn at the “minimum” scientific language and practice; environmental policy decisions; work of environmental organizations; a general understanding of current environmental concerns; and the ability to communicate all of the information to the public in such a way that it can be understood despite its complexity.

Mordeno added in his welcome remarks that environment journalists “must not cease asking the questions that matter like they do in other coverage.”

“How much is the budget for the environment and disaster management and how is this money being spent? Are the proper policies in place and are there appropriate structures to enforce such policies? How prepared are the local government units and communities in responding to disasters? What local conditions have led to the occurrence of these disasters?” he said.

Mordeno stressed that it will be more difficult also if journalists don’t understand the issues at stake.

Elfren Elbanbuena, regional director of the Philippine Information Agency-11 and cluster head for Mindanao, cited the need for collaboration between the private and public news media for improved communication on the impact of climate change. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)