Journalists should find easier ways to help readers understand environmental journalism.

By Tammy Fray

Panellists at an environmental crime discussion at the African Investigative Journalism Conference agreed that there is a disconnect between environmental stories and their audiences.

The discussion echoed interdisciplinary scholar Rob Nixon’s “slow violence” sentiments about audiences not always understanding the complexities of reporting on corruption and the degradation of communities. This is because the effects are not immediately obvious as detailed in Nixon’s  book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.

Oxpeckers associates Oscar Nkala, John Grobler and Estacio Valoi highlighted the environmental journalism work they have done in southern Africa.

In July this year, Grobler, a Namibian journalist, exposed Chinese expansive patronage networks involving flying ‘money’ that fuels illegal wildlife trade.

He said readers seldom encounter environmental degradation within close proximity and so writers need to find creative ways of humanising the information.

“[You] also have to write the article several times for a reaction,”  Grobler said.

Activities including extraction, mining and poaching can cause harmful effects to communities directly impacted by these processes. These consequences can only be felt several years later because of the time it takes to be aware of how such activities influence individuals. Nixon said that due to this time lag, readers often cannot comprehend what the writer is articulating because those effects cannot immediately be seen.

FEATURED IMAGE: From left to right: Estacio Valoi, investigative journalist at Center for Mozambique’s Investigative Journalism; John Grobler, correspondent for Vrye Weekblad and Oscar Koala, research associate for Oxpeckers at #AIJC19 on Monday, October 28. Photo: Zimkhita Kweza


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