We called up Enoch Sithole, journalism lecturer at the Wits Centre for Journalism, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, to find out more about how journalists and the media in South Africa report on climate change and what the public perception of it is. Enoch Sithole is about to carry out a study, commissioned by Fojo, on how key climate change stakeholders perceive climate journalism there, in preparation of a conference next year. Fojo and Wits Centre for Journalism are long-term partners, working hand-in-hand to strengthen journalism’s contribution to a more sustainable world.
Why is Fojo commissioning you to carry out a study like this?
“The study is part of Fojo’s sustainable journalism initiative. It is meant to contribute to sustainable journalism by gathering knowledge on climate change reporting and public perception of how climate change is reported here in South Africa. The current perception is that climate change is both poorly reported by journalists and communication on it is poorly studied by academics. We generally hear nothing about climate change in the news, except when there is a conference or a climate disaster. Mainstream media in South Africa won’t cover climate change outside climate conferences and disasters. Other stakeholders such as the government or policymakers and the business sector also communicate poorly on climate change.
In the study, we will interview forty people from five key groups of stakeholders: the media, policymakers, the private sector, climate scientists and academics and civil society. The answers we get will form the basis of the discussions we will have at a conference on sustainable journalism here in South Africa next year.
The subject of climate journalism, within the broader theme of climate change communication, is very close to my heart. I have spent the last two and a half years researching this subject for the doctoral thesis which I am just about to submit for examination.
Although my own research will not form any part of this study, I have in my own work found some startling results on how climate change is overlooked and ignored in journalism in South Africa. I really look forward to finding out more in the interviews I will carry out in this study – and to eventually be able to greatly help improve this area of reporting.”