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by Sharyn Lisa Shufiyan
Wild Asia in partnership with HSBC recently organized Responsible Journalists Programme, aimed at highlighting environmental and social issues in a different light. SHARYN SHUFIYAN shares.
Often times our front page news are graced by political ping-pong and heartbreaking disasters that environmental issues get sidelined. We are a society of consumers, but in a fast-paced urban setting, how many of us actually consume news critically?
Environmental issues are generally considered 'not sexy enough' to make it on the front page, unless some deaths had occurred like the 2008 Bukit Antarabangsa landslide. A lecture by David Suzuki, a well known environmentalist echoed my sentiment; in 1992, the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity document that was signed by 1500 scientists from around the world highlighting grave environmental dangers was not picked up by any news media due to the fact that it was not 'newsworthy'.
Recognizing the lack of in-depth news reports on environmental issues, Wild Asia in partnership with HSBC organized the Responsible Journalists Programme recently held in Kuala Lumpur on November 27th and 28th 2010. This programme was specifically designed for journalists to improve the scope and quality of news reporting. Wild Asia believes that passionate and informed journalists are instrumental to inspire positive social and environmental change as they are the link that connects the general public to the current issues happening in our surroundings. As Jules Ong, our associate editor rightly puts it, "journalism is as much as the mind as it is with heart".
The two-day programme covered topics on how businesses are affecting the environment and people at all levels of an organization. We also introduced the concept of Ecological Intelligence - knowing the impacts of the things we buy to make informed decisions, which was first conceptualized by psychologist Daniel Goleman. The programme also included modules on investigative journalism and how to write a compelling story.
We had a good mix of mainstream journalists, citizen journalists and students. Michelle Yeoh, technical officer for the Malaysian Palm Oil Association opined that, "The workshop is definitely useful for beginners to learn more about the environment so that we can be wise in our own decision making and (empowering us) to question our decision makers on what they are doing to our environment."
"People are becoming aware of environmental issues because of campaigns but progressive actions have yet to be taken, such as a strong policy to mitigate negative environmental impacts," she continued.
Natalie Heng, a journalist from The Sun found that "Issues are often part of a broad, interconnected web. Because of space limitations for context and the short attention span of people, we need to have stories that can have a strong impact and trigger emotions to get them to learn and understand these issues."
Grace Wong, a student at HELP University College echoed, "Maybe youths find the available information dry and irrelevant to their lives, or the magnitude of such issues have not occurred to them yet, because they have not been exposed. I think there needs to be more formal means to get young people informed on issues, perhaps within the space of college itself."
She added that, "I'm hopeful that as more media professionals become aware of environmental and social issues and the larger picture, stories in the media will contain more depth and meaning. And that these issues will become a core concern of the media and society, as opposed to topics to be covered in a special "green" section periodically."
Lois Kam, manager of corporate sustainability at HSBC explained the motivation behind this partnership. "HSBC believes that economy and ecology goes hand-in-hand and is a shared responsibility for all stakeholders to minimize damaging effects of human activities. There is vested interest for all parties to help provide solutions."
"Malaysian companies have come a long way in CSR awareness and practices, however, CSR should be an intrinsic part of a company's value and embedded into the business strategy and goals." she continued.
The programme also included a site visit to Hutan Rimba Ampang (Ampang Recreational Forest) at Bukit Belacan, a natural area threatened by the development of the proposed Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road. Participants were accompanied by Lim Teck Wyn, honorary secretary of the Malaysian Nature Society and technical director of Resource Stewardship Consultants Sdn Bhd (RESCU). Teck Wyn, a resident of Ampang himself, attended to questions rained upon him by the participants as he took them on a casual stroll into the recreational forest.
The programme ended with a high, as not only did the participants learned more about environmental and social issues but also made new friends. Some of the participants had expressed that it was good for them to meet other like-minded journalists and share ideas. They had also suggested improvements and new ideas for next year's Responsible Journalists programme.
Wild Asia believes that as more news and features on the environment mushroom, we can create a level of stewardship among Malaysians that transcends awareness into proactive actions and tangible demands for better environmental policies and corporate responsibility.
Watch this space for updates on Responsible Journalists Programme 2011!
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Original URL: http://www.wildasia.org/main.cfm/ideas_lab/Penning_RJ
Published: 14 December 2010
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