January 22, 2010

Journalists to discuss impact of climate change

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The human impact of climate change chronicled by three award-winning journalists is the focus of a lecture next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“Heat of the Moment: Reports from the Frontline of Climate Change,” is set for 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 28, in Student Center Ballroom A. The event is free and open to the public.

Three journalists who participated in the project of The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting will share their experiences as part of the discussion. The SIUC School of Journalism, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and the University’s Global Media Research Center sponsor the event.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the lecture. To make arrangements for interviews, contact William Freivogel, director of the SIUC School of Journalism, at 618/453-3288.

Freelance reporters William Wheeler and Anna-Katarina Gravgaard examined the water crisis in India, Bangladesh and Nepal in the project, “South Asia’s Troubled Waters.” Home to a quarter of the world’s population, South Asia has only five percent of the world’s freshwater resources, according to the Pulitzer Center. Reports from the project have appeared in publications including “GlobalPost,” “The Washington Times,” and “Good Magazine.”

In “The Next Wave: Climate Refugees in the South Pacific,” Jennifer Redfearn looks at the impact climate change is having on inhabitants of the South Pacific’s Carteret Islands, where rising waters will force relocation to higher ground, according to the Pulitzer Center. Redfearn’s film won the Jury Award at the Ninth Annual Media That Matters Film Festival last year.

The multimedia approach also utilizes blogs and video from Pulitzer Center-sponsored journalists.

In the wake of last month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, the issue of climate change remains in the news, said William H. Freivogel, director of the University’s School of Journalism, and a professor with the institute.

“There’s a lot of controversy about climate change, especially after the disclosure of those e-mails raising questions about the research into the subject,” Yepsen said. “This is a chance to hear the reaction from top-flight journalists who’ve been covering global warming.”

Freivogel noted the issue of climate change and its impact on the world’s water resources was also of great interest to institute founder and former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.

“The Pulitzer Center has done many stories on the whole issue of water resources,” Freivogel said.

Simon authored a 1998 book, “Tapped Out: The Coming World Crisis in Water and What We Can Do About It.” The book resulted in “Running Dry,” a 2005 documentary film that examines the world’s worsening water crisis.

The documentary played a major role in bringing the issue to Capitol Hill and passage of the Sen. Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, said Simon’s widow, Patti Derge Simon. The legislation focuses on making access to safe water and sanitation in developing countries “a specific policy objective of the United States Foreign Assistance Program,” according to its sponsor, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill. In 2009, Durbin introduced the “Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act,” which proposes to provide 100 million people with sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015. The legislation is currently before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The non-profit Pulitzer Center focuses on independent reporting and helps fund freelance reporters’ travel costs to cover global affairs stories that are “off-the-beaten path” or not receiving what the organization believes is enough coverage, Freivogel said. The organization then helps place those stories with print and broadcast outlets.

Freivogel and Jon Sawyer, Pulitzer Center founding director, were colleagues at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where Sawyer was the newspaper’s former Washington bureau chief, and Freivogel was assistant bureau chief.

The Pulitzer Center reporters “are especially valuable” to the School of Journalism, Freivogel said. Jordan Wilson, a former student in SIUC’s journalism school and a former Daily Egyptian editor, went on to work on a Pulitzer Center project in Kenya, Freivogel said.

“Most are young reporters who use multimedia techniques to report stories that the mainstream media often misses,” he said. “This gives our students an idea of how they might make it in the changing media world.”