Toolkit on Investigating Environmental Issues for African Media Workers

Climate change is the big story of our times, especially in Africa. In response to requests from members, FAIR produced  a toolkit to support existing environmental investigations, and encourage new ones.  Download the pdf version here.The text offers tips, hints, and links to other resources to help IJs:

· Approach the basic science of climate change and environmental issues confidently;
· Identify and describe the key environmental issues affecting Africa, and localise world and continental problems;
· Distinguish trustworthy from misleading sources of environmental information and effectively interrogate the latter;
· Know how to develop sufficient working knowledge of the field, its role-players, terminology and debates to identify and plan stories;
· Build up and use relevant contacts to support your work;
· Interview scientists and other specialists confidently and competently;
· Contextualise, and where relevant link, the multiplicity of environment-related problems communities may have;
· Make the scientific aspects of environment stories accessible, relevant and interesting to  your readers.

Like the other volumes of the handbook, the text is split into practical, work-related sections and contains exercises and talking points you can use to engage others in your newsroom so they see the importance of environment stories.

The sections cover:
– The role of environmental journalists
– Stories about science or stories about people?
– The key environmental issues worldwide and for Africa
– What science is, and how to avoid being intimidated by it
– Contacts and sources for environmental IJ
– Developing story ideas, pitching them, and making time to write them
– Getting scientists to talk your language
– Key international and African treaties and frameworks

Environmental journalists Sipho Kings and Wanjohi Kabukuru share their experience of writing environmental stories: what worked – and what was tough. The chapter discusses techniques for ‘selling’ these stories to editors. It offers a guide to tackling scientific areas you may be unfamiliar with, and a glossary of key terms. 


FAIR would like to thank all those organisations and individuals who gave
support to the research and writing process on this chapter. In particular,
we’d like to thank all FAIR members who contributed ideas or read and
commented on various drafts, Margaret Renn of Wits IJ for her detailed
queries and suggestions and Nic Dawes of the Mail & Guardian for permission
to reprint the ‘solar cooking’ story. We’d also like to thank Judy Seidman for
all her work in creating an attractive layout.

This work is a FAIR publication. Where opinions are expressed, these are the
opinions of FAIR or, in the case of quotations from other works, of the
sources cited.

Unless otherwise stated the Creative Commons zero declaration (CCO) applies to this chapter. This means that any form of non-commercial re-use of the content is permitted, unless for a certain component (for example, a
photograph) it is indicated that a copyright exception applies. FAIR 2012.


Forum for African Investigative Reporters, Tel: +2711 482 8493, Fax: +2711 482 7208,  Email:, Website:, Twitter: @fairreporters


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