Reporting on the Environment in Kenya
Rosalia Omungo is an environmental journalist and editor at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation TV in Nairobi, Kenya. She was selected to be the 2014 Earth Journalism Scholar, enabling her to attend the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for a semester, as part of a partnership created between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the JSchool that features a graduate level class on international environmental reporting.
"The class was an opportunity to take a critical look at the effects of human activity on the planet. The topics covered included climate change, loss of biodiversity, energy, rivers, oceans, climate governance and law. The lessons were also meant to intertwine this knowledge with science and policy," said Rosalia.
"I have learned narrative and story-telling skills, and most importantly, how to apply these skills to the complex issues of science, environmental governance, ecology and policy. I realized how susceptible we are when reporting on global environmental issues to not really knowing the fundamentals and sometimes reporting without good data."
he learning process involved lessons by lecturers James Fahn and Mark Schapiro as well as critiquing stories by fellow students, to make the stories better. The contribution of ideas by the whole class allowed each student to eventually produce a rich, excellent piece.
Rosalia got the idea to explore a story on oysters, a local delicacy in parts of the United States, but less known in developing countries.
The program also gave Rosalia an opportunity to share experiences with American journalists on environmental reporting in Sub Saharan Africa and specifically Kenya. Some of her classmates are looking to travel to Kenya to cover some of the environmental issues Rosalia shared with them.
"I would say the whole experience was a thought-provoking journey of personal growth," says Rosalia. "One semester is quite short, it was not long enough to learn in-depth skills such as camera work, photography and website building. But it served as an opening into the multiplicity of avenues available for excellence in journalism in the age of digital media. This was an important opportunity for me. These are skills I hope to build on to perfection."
EJN held a conference at the JSchool at the end of the course that provided an opportunity to learn new concepts such as using sensors to measure air and noise pollution. It was also an opportunity for students to join the network.
"I am definitely privileged and thankful to have been selected as the first Earth Journalism Scholar with this program. I am now back home working on strengthening the features desk at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, sharing what I have learnt with my colleagues in Kenya and looking forward to further collaboration with colleagues around the world."
Banner photo: Taken during a National Geographic photo camp, conducted in Kenya in partnership with Internews (credit: Agatha Ngotho)