No 'Death by Powerpoint'

Wednesday, 6 November 2013 11:55 GMT

Laurie Goering, editor of AlertNet Climate, with course participants on the final day of training.

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Like me, many aspiring climate journalists had no idea how to handle such a scientific report – one that had been released just days before the Thomson Reuters Foundation training we attended in Delhi in October.

“Ok guys, just a few minutes ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Fifth Assessment Report and you have to break the story within 15 minutes. Your time starts now.”
Like me, many aspiring climate journalists had no idea how to handle such a scientific report – one that had been released just days before the Thomson Reuters Foundation training we attended in Delhi in October.

This is a glimpse of the high-pressure, real-time newsroom created for us during a course on climate change reporting. The training was the first of its kind in India and lasted five days at Centre for Science and Environment headquarters in Delhi. Our trainers and mentors – well-known journalists Laurie Goering, the editor of AlertNet Climate at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Nitin Sethi, senior assistant editor at The Hindu - had promised us on the first day that “there will be no death by Powerpoint” and they really made it possible!

The course modules kept us so involved from day one that none of the 11 participants ever tried to doze off during any session. Even during lunch hours, everyone discussed climate science at great length. Moreover, the mentors taught us about climate jargon and how to avoid it. Technical terms like CDM, RCP8.5, LULUCF and REDD - rather to say scary acronyms - were made simple for us.
Nitin taught us what constitutes impressive field reporting and how to make simple news stories out of complex scientific reports, as well as about climate issues in India. Laurie talked about how to find the best sources for stories, and how to structure a complex story.

To relieve the stress there were fun-filled energisers, led by Laurie, during session breaks.

An interesting part of the training was a field visit to the Solar Energy Centre (Gurgaon), where we looked for stories and how to develop them for a global audience. The course aimed to hone our reporting skills and made us unlearn some things and learn new and better ones in order to write appealing stories on climate change.

There were special sessions on things like ‘What is climate science?’ and ‘What makes a quality story?’. Besides that, we were taught how to look for climate stories in our regions. It was really interesting to learn how local stories could be globalised.

The five day course gave us so much. So many great journalists became good friends that will remain in touch, and keep sending invites to kaffeeklatsch and house warming parties.

Saket Savita is a freelance climate change journalist and a Master’s student in public policy and sustainable development. He attended the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s inaugural course on climate change reporting in New Delhi in October 2013.

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