Robin Young, WBUR 90.9, August 5, 2019

Are newsrooms doing enough to cover climate change?

That’s the question that Florida newsrooms have decided to tackle head on.

News organizations across the Sunshine State have teamed up to report on climate change as a collaborative effort. The network — including The Palm Beach Post, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald and WLRN public radio, among others — will share resources and stories that dive deep into the issues presented by climate change.

Miami Herald

climate reporter Alex Harris (@harrisalexc) says climate change in Florida “touches every facet of our lives down here.” Residents see how rising sea levels and flooding is impacting their families, homes and wallets, she says.

Tampa Bay Times

executive editor Mark Katches (@markkatches) agrees, saying climate change is top of mind for many Floridians. “The fact is, this is ground zero for the impacts of climate change in the state, in the country, [and] in the world.”

The newsrooms’ collaborative aims to bring comprehensive coverage to something that the state “is going to be reckoning with” for the “foreseeable future,” Katches says.

“We see this as the most pressing and biggest issue of our lives and of our children’s lives,” he says. “And we want to bring rigor and collaboration to how we cover it here in the state.”

Interview Highlights

On how Miami residents are being conscious of climate change

Alex Harris: When most people think about climate change, they think about, you know, a polar bear on a shrinking ice float. But in South Florida and Miami particularly, it looks more like roads flooded so you can’t get to work. It’s the change in property values of inland, higher elevation buildings and how that can ripple out to your insurance costs. … We have a unique political atmosphere down here, as well as that everyone kind of agrees this is happening and we’re already on the next part of the debate, which is: what do we do about it?

On how their climate coverage is being received

Harris: I get the occasional email or mostly Twitter reply from people who think that my coverage is not based on scientific facts [or] it’s liberal. And I would say I get a lot more of that from national readers. From the local level — yes, I do get a couple of those emails but generally, people aren’t really concerned about fighting the science. They know it’s real. They know their streets are flooding and they’re more interested in how much of their taxes are going to pay to install a flood pump at the end of their street. It’s really all about solutions and focused on things that are actually happening in real life.

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