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07/17/2013

Is Reuters hostile to climate change reporting? So says former reporter

There are climate change deniers, there is no denying their existence. They deny that the earth is getting warmer, they deny there are more extreme weather events partially  because of global warming. They also deny that we, homo sapiens, are mostly responsible for it.

Now it seems that Reuters, or at least some of its top editors, also fall in that bracket.

(Reuters is an international news agency with headquarters in New York.)

A former Reuters reporter made  those allegations in a blogpost on Monday. David Fogarty, the former Reuters climate change correspondent in Asias, described the opposition he faced inside the organization when he pitched climate-related stories. Here is a very telling paragraph from his post. “From very early in 2012, I was repeatedly told that climate and environment stories were no longer a top priority for Reuters and I was asked to look at other areas. Being stubborn, and passionate about my climate change beat, I largely ignored the directive.”

Fogarty, who minced no words, gave a look at the growing “climate of fear” within Reuters and its reluctance to cover climate change and issues related to it.

In April last year, Paul Ingrassia (then deputy editor-in-chief) and I met and had  a chat at a company function. He told me he was a climate change sceptic. Not a rabid sceptic, just someone who wanted to see more evidence mankind was changing the global climate.

Progressively, getting any climate change-themed story published got harder. It was a lottery. Some desk editors happily subbed and pushed the button. Others agonised and asked a million questions. Debate on some story ideas generated endless bureaucracy by editors frightened to take a decision, reflecting a different type of climate within Reuters — the climate of
fear.

By mid-October, I was informed that climate change just wasn’t a big story for the present, but that it would be if there was a significant shift in global policy, such as the US introducing an emissions cap-and-trade system.

Very soon after that conversation I was told my climate change role was abolished. I was asked to take over the regional shipping role and that I had less than a week to decide.

Fogarty quit earlier this year after two decades with Reuters, including four years on the Asia climate change beat.

To be fair, Reuters isn’t the only one seemingly disinterested in climate change reporting. The New York Times came in for intense criticism for dismantling its environment desk and eliminating the two editorial positions some months ago. That wasn’t it though. A few months after, the paper discontinued its Green Blog.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter.She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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