From bystander to storyteller: how to engage young journalists in climate stories?

On September 29th in the Academy of Journalism and Communication (AJC), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Vietnam (FES) and AJC co-organized the public event “AJC Climate Day”. The event was held to evaluate the achievements of the collaboration between FES and AJC during the past year, as well as to convey information and messages on environment and climate change to a larger number of journalism students.

A member of Deplasticize group is sharing with AJC students about her project

Mrs. Nguyen Phuong Lien is sharing about Tue Vien Organic Farm

Talk show: The role of communication in the context of environmental degradation and climate change

Journalism plays an important role in responding to climate change and environmental degradation: from updating information, providing knowledge to sharing and spreading best practices to the public so that people can actively adapt to changes, at the same time consciously adjust their lifestyle and consumption behavior in order to minimize negative human impacts on the environment and climate. Therefore, this topic needs a lot of attention from journalists, especially young ones. On the other hand, because climate change and environmental issues are technical topics, lack of background knowledge may lead to misinformation or false conclusions, which, once published, may cause unpredictable consequences.

Recognizing this issue, FES has been collaborating with AJC since 2015 to implement the project of integrating basic knowledge on environment and climate change into the academy’s curriculum. Over the past three years, more than 40 committed lecturers from different faculties of AJC have participated in five training workshops with German experts on various topics related to the environment and climate change and have been equipped with a variety of skills to integrate these topics into their teaching. This training phase ended with a study tour to Germany in late 2017.

Since 2018, the joint project entered a new phase and open the opportunity for AJC students – future journalists, researchers and social workers – to participate. Activities include a series of trainings and field trips on topics related to climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as environmental pollution in Vietnam. The purpose is to provide AJC students and lecturers with more information and perspectives on environmental and climate issues in Vietnam, based on the experience of experts and practitioners in the field. The series also allowed AJC students and lecturers to visit, exchange and learn from climate mitigation/adaptation models in the North of Vietnam, which would inspire them to work on researches and communication products on these topics. In addition, it was also a chance for students to practice the journalism skills they have learned and develop complete communication products. Products with high quality were selected to commemorate on the Climate Day, which was held on September 29th.

Six trainings and field trips took place from April to June 2018, covering a wide range of topics including Sustainable Fashion, Green Youth Movement, Energy, Organic Farming, Biodiversity and Climate Change Adaptation. With a duration of 3 to 4 hours for a training session and about 1,5 days of field trip, the students could not be expected to become expert on the topic. However, the speakers tried their best to ensure that they convey the most basic information, as well as the big picture so that the students can have an overview and a foundation from which they can explore further. On the other hand, the speakers themselves are experts and enthusiastic practitioners in their fields, among them are: Mrs. Vu Thao – a fashion designer who is considered the pioneer of sustainable fashion movement in Vietnam; Mrs. Nguyen Phuong Lien – the owner of Tue Vien Organic Farm with the dream to restore the natural and chemical-free ecosystem, and to change people’s prejudice with farmers and farming; Mr. Hung Luong from the “Houses against Flood” project with moving stories on the journey to “build a new life filled with smiles” - helping vulnerable families to adapt better with natural disasters, which are increasing in number due to climate change. Real people with real stories are a great source of inspiration for the students to continue working on these topics and contribute to spreading information and awareness to the public.

After the trainings and field trips, the students created many media products on environmental and climate topics with diverse formats such as digital article, photo series, radio, television, research, etc. At the Climate Day, more than 200 attendees had the chance to look back at the numbers about the series of trainings and field trips: A total attendance of 280 lecturers and students, with more than 70 products. 12 products with highest quality were highlighted at the event. In addition, creative and interactive activities took place during the event, such as decorating camps with recycled materials, cat-walk with recycled fashion outfits, exhibition of eco-friendly products, or quiz on climate change. The Climate Day ended with the talk show “The role of communication in the context of environmental degradation and climate change” with the participation of Mr. Dao Nhat Dinh – expert on environmental engineering, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Phuong Lien – founder of Tue Vien Organic Farm, Mrs. Nguyen Hoang Thao – founder of “Say no to plastic bag” campaign, Mr. Dinh Ngoc Son – deputy head of broadcasting faculty and Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Hai – journalism student and also a member of Vietnam Youth and Sustainability Forum, which was also supported by FES. The talk show exposed the audience to a multi-dimensional view of environmental communication through the lens of difference stakeholders and highlighted the responsibilities of journalists to keep learning and developing communication products with accurate information and meaningful contents.

It can be said that the cooperation between FES Vietnam and AJC in the past year has been a success, not only in numbers, but also in the fact that many students and lecturers have really changed their mindset and consumption habits after the training, as one student shared:

“Everything you shared has shaken me and made me think for one whole evening, not only about my daily activities but also my own way of seeing, listening and feeling the surrounding environment. Why didn’t I know about the issues earlier? Or have I known yet ignored them?

It seems like I have never truly cared and looked at what is happening right in front of my eyes.

Maybe I have to re-learn my way of seeing things.

I can’t become vegan but from today I will eat more vegetables and less meat.

I can’t totally detach from the convenience of plastic bags, but from today I will try to eventually replace them with tote bag.

I may also refrain from buying new clothes.

Learning to change small things, I will change the habits of people around me.

Thank you for everything. I hope you will keep your faith and enthusiasm to change the mindset of young people like me, and of everyone.”

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