What Does Sustainability Media Coverage Mean?

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The Wednesday breakout session, in which global media professionals debated sustainability, focused on change. Panelists discussed the changes in sustainability over the past two decades. The discussion was lively. Representatives of major media outlets, including The Economist and Le Monde, Time and Harvard Business Review, discussed how politics, business and resources affect sustainability media coverage. Here are some thoughts from the discussion:

  • Yesterday’s news, well, it’s yesterday’s news. A reporter or editor may not be obligated to produce follow-up stories about the same topic. Panelists stated that journalists seek to give timely information and provide a perspective that is relevant in a context that is of interest to their readers. While climate change is fascinating, it is not interesting unless there is truly ground-breaking news.
  • Show me the money. It is not new to talk about environmental savings and give money to a cause. These actions do not inspire media to “stop their presses.” Instead stories that advance a narrative and offer more complexity, such as pieces that highlight the connection between sustainability and social justice, will gain more attention.
  • Media is also business. The media outlets are not always equipped to handle sustainability stories. There are a few editors on staff, so they have to deal with multiple coverage requests. The news cycle is fast-paced. Panelists from media said that companies need to consider the relevance of stories within the larger context of these realities. Panelists also noted that reporting on short-term financial issues by business reporters can lead to stories about sustainability.

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