Climate change creates a quandary for Q&A and other programs at the quality end of TV journalism. They aspire to be interesting and constructive, but they are yet to escape the orbit of those “ritualistic formats” Bernard Keane refers to.

Every time someone on Q&A says something ecological, Mr Jones is expected to churn up “the other side” from one or other of his eminent panelists.

The problem is, there is no “other side” — we are part of an ecological system and we poison it at our peril. In this big-picture sense, the ecological debate is over.

The debates now are about the solutions.

When anti-ecological spoilers waste TV air-time, this distracts us from solutions, damaging Australia’s competitiveness and undermining national security. But I believe enough in journalism to think that the media can make a difference.

Reporters and editors should be empowered to use their editorial judgment at the highest level. They can decide when “equal” and “balance” have been reached in the old debates and it is time to move on and have the new ones. If this puts them out beyond the agenda of the political parties, then there will be conflict, but that is fine too.

The journalism we need (lets call it “Ecocene“, to borrow a term) means quality information and debate about solutions. It is the opportunity journalism needs to rediscover its civic role. Ecocene journalism is great news for media organisations.

Solutions debates are far more content-rich than the “both sides” tedium of ecological versus anti-ecological. Ecocene stories are the stuff of a content-manager’s fantasy — personal struggles, high-tech, new horizons, unsung heroes and an inexhaustible supply of villains. This is great news for audiences.

See for example Worldchanging. It is a not-for-profit site for “forward thinking, solutions-based journalism”. How does it rate in the Neilson rankings of sustainability websites? No.2. That is a return on investment that the ABC or News Ltd can only dream of.

The competition is hotting up even more since yesterday, with The Guardian launching the 10:10 climate campaign. (It had already resolved to be the world’s leading environmental website).

So what would public-benefit journalism look like in the Ecocene — the era of ecological solutions?

Here is a discussion starter:

  1. Companies with environmental products and services — Reward good journalism by diverting investment and advertising to media organisations that debate the solutions.
  2. ABC Radio — Restore Earthbeat, the environmental program that was terminated in 2005.
  3. Q&A — Select panelists who have the credibility to debate ecological solutions.
  4. All TV networks — Add clean tech indexes to the finance segment at the end of the nightly news.
  5. Public and commercial media organisations — Appoint ecologists to the board.
  6. Journalists union (MEAA) — Provide continuing education to media professionals on ecological science and solutions technologies

Peter Fray

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