MEDIA ANALYSIS: Eco-worriers find home on the web

Environmental issues are climbing high up the news agenda thanks to web coverage. Lucy Aitken finds out how the web has helped green issues bloom.

Earthlog might sound like Captain Kirk’s diary of a jaunt on the Starship Enterprise. But in fact it’s one of the central features of The Daily Telegraph’s new Earth Channel which launched at www.telegraph.co.uk/earth earlier this month.

The site covers environmental stories and reviews environmental products. The Earthlog is a weekly column penned by The Daily Telegraph’s environment editor Charles Clover, who has 20 years of ‘green’ reporting experience. Of the paper’s new launch, Clover says, ‘The environment is hotter than it’s ever been, and now that The Daily Telegraph has a more comprehensive internet edition, we can devote a whole channel to it.’

He is particularly interested to hear from the PR community about new technologies which can help combat climate change, but only those which have been thoroughly tested by consumers. ‘We’re all going to have things like solar panels and wind turbines in the next 20 years. I want to know whether they work or not so I can tell readers definitively.’

The Earth Channel joins an ever-growing array of sections reporting green issues. Over at News International, Anna Shepard, The Times’ resident ‘Eco-Worrier’, has a daily blog and a weekly column in the paper’s Body & Soul section. A typical piece raises safety concerns about electric cars.

The Independent has shown its commitment to environmental stories by frequently devoting its entire front page to the plight of an endangered species or global warming. In The Guardian, the author and political activist George Monbiot is famously antagonistic in his Tuesday column, reporting on issues such as why sharks deserve the conservation status given to pandas, and why we need a five-year freeze on biofuels. The Guardian’s website also hosts an ‘environment’ strand with contributions from Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper and Stephen Tindale, the executive director of Greenpeace UK.

Leo Hickman in The Guardian’s G2 supplement on Thursdays offers advice on everything from green energy suppliers to recycling, while Lucy Siegle is The Observer’s ecological and ethical specialist. She comments: ‘The idea for me has always been to humanise some difficult environmental and social justice concepts and demystify them.’

Free sheet papers are devoting more space to environmental issues, too. Associated’s Metro runs its Green Metro page on Mondays, while News International’s thelondonpaper features a Green London section every day. Cara Franklin, a director at Consolidated Communications, describes both free sheet sections as ‘environmentally astute in terms of readership’.

Last October, Franklin worked on Energy Savings Week for Consolidated client Energy Savings Trust and secured coverage in national press and TV news shows by comparing the UK to the rest of Europe in terms of energy efficiency.

The previous year, Energy Savings Week had focused on the impact of climate change and secured, among other coverage, a full page in The Guardian’s news section.

Franklin’s advice is to use shock tactics when pitching to news desks, and also to try consumer affairs correspondents when promoting a green living story. She’s noticed a phenomenal change in how green issues have been reported since Consolidated won the Energy Savings Trust five years ago. She reflects: ‘In 2002, energy efficiency was seen to be very boring. Now consumer magazines and consumer affairs correspondents are all running tips on how to be greener.’

And green doesn’t have to mean compromising on glamour. The sustainability communications agency Futerra organised a ‘Wedding Outfit Swish’ where 100 women met at The Groucho Club to swap clothes they’d bought to attend weddings. The event was featured on the Earth Channel.

Sue Welland, the founder of the carbon-offsetting outfit The CarbonNeutral Company, agrees, revealing that she prefers to target business press or business correspondents on the nationals rather than seeking out specific ‘environmental’ coverage. ‘We look beyond the ethical living columns of newspapers because you’re never going to change the world by just focusing on smaller sections of the media.’

As all the newspapers bar The Daily Star have seen their circulations decline over the last year, PROs might be wise to consider other media options which are in the ascendancy.

Now broadband connections are more powerful, internet TV is another option. Green.tv is a broadband TV channel which attracts 150,000 unique users every month, and describes itself as ‘a green Google for green films’. Its lead partner is the United Nations Env­ironment Programme, and two thirds of its content comes from NGOs, but there is also an opportunity for commercial companies. Ade Thomas, green.tv’s managing director, says: ‘Corporations are much more aware of climate change issues, so we’re much more interested in content from them.’

As consumers become more aware of green issues delivered through a variety of channels, there is less chance that they – or the journalists creating content for them – will fall for greenwash, particularly from big corporate organizations with huge carbon footprints. The Observer’s Lucy Siegle no doubt speaks for many journalists and editors when she says: ‘Those who are prepared to take real initiativeshould be acknowledged, but I have no time
for greenwash.’

CONTACTS

Earth Channel
Paul Eccleston, editor
E
paul.eccleston@telegraph.co.uk

The Telegraph
Charles Clover, environment editor
E charles.clover@telegraph.co.uk

Financial Times
Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
020 7873 3806
E fiona.harvey@ft.com T 020 7873 3806

The Times
Anna Shepard, Eco-Worrier, The Times, Body & Soul and daily blog
E
ecoworrier@thetimes.co.uk T 020 7782 5000

The Guardian
Leo Hickman, ethical living editor
E ethical.living@guardian.co.uk

The Observer
Lucy Siegle, ethical living columnist
E lucy.siegle@observer.co.uk

 

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in