The importance of media coverage on the controversial topic of climate change will be discussed at this year’s Roger Tatarian Journalism Symposium, held Thursday in the Satellite Student Union.
The keynote speaker for the symposium, Professor Robert Hackett from Simon Fraser University in Canada, said “Journalism is arguably our culture’s most important form of storytelling.”
“It not only helps to set agendas for public attention and policy-makers’ decision-making,” Hackett said, “it orients us toward the world beyond own direct experience.”
Coinciding with Hackett’s idea of raising awareness, the symposium’s organizer Dr. Marc Edge said the event is about journalists accurately informing the public about climate change.
A Fresno State professor in journalism, Edge said the media must consider conflicting sides of the debate but actively “cut through the clutter and get to the bottom line.”
The three-hour symposium will feature journalists and scholars and presented by Fresno State’s College of Arts and Humanities and the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism.
In addition to Hackett, other speakers will include the former editor-in-chief of Earth magazine Professor Tom Yulsman from the University of Colorado and Fresno Bee journalist Mark Grossi.
In light of the people who “muddy the waters for political reasons,” Edge said journalism was crucial in deciphering the truth about climate change.
“A lot of people feel there is a scientific consensus that climate change is at least a phenomenon aided by greenhouse gas emissions, if not wholly created by industrial pollution,” Edge said. “But then a lot people claim that that’s not the case – that the earth has been warming and cooling in a natural cycle for eons.”
Hackett said the focus of his talk will be about the kinds of journalism that “best help our society to respond to the enormous challenge of global warming.”
“It’s not just a matter of better conveying the science, but of finding frames and practices that would help to engage audiences as citizens and motivate them to effective action,” Hackett said.
Edge said Hackett’s lecture should make for some interesting discussion, since instead of relying on “outdated notions of objectivity,” Hackett wants to encourage a productive response rather than just a temporary reaction.
“Our keynote speaker, in fact, will be arguing that journalism should go even further in promoting not just awareness, but change,” Edge said.
By talking to students and members of the public, Hackett said he hopes they will take away the importance of demanding journalism that spurs political action on climate change. He said such support is important “against the indifference, or even hostility, of entrenched interests vested in the carbon economy.”
Edge said the symposium was attracting interest from a variety of local groups and had specific relevance because of California’s drought.
“There’s a lot of people interested in environmental issues, especially in the central San Joaquin Valley,” Edge said.
The event is free and open to the public, and runs from 9 a.m. until noon. The Tatarian Symposium is in honor of the late Roger Tatarian, a Fresno State alumnus who was editor-in-chief of United Press International and a longtime journalism professor at the university.