Journalists affiliated with legacy media outlets like Global News and CBC demanded that newsrooms rile up Canadians to view climate change with the same urgency as a global pandemic or World War II. 

While speaking at a Nov. 22 panel hosted by Simon Fraser University’s Community-Engaged Research Initiative (SFU CERi), a panel featuring former CBC Radio producer Donya Ziaee, Global News climate change reporter Kamyar Razavi and National Observer columnist Seth Klein demanded that the media employ the same tactics to cover climate change used during major global emergencies.

“(During the pandemic) we heard a lot of scientists on the air, they were the voices of authority. Public health officials also got quite a bit of air time and sometimes were approached not critically enough or questioned about the policies they were enacting,” said Ziaee. 

“The point is there was a clear decision to devote the resources and airtime it took to treat the pandemic with the urgency and gravity that it called for and we’ve seen no vision or leadership of that kind from the CBC when it comes to the climate crisis.” 

One of the suggested solutions was for legacy media companies to feed Canadians with a “daily climate emergency” report in the same way that news companies did a daily Covid-19 update at the height of the pandemic. 

“We saw broadcasters do this during Covid and we know they are capable of a pivot like this,” said SFU Ceri research and engagement lead Tara Mahoney. 

Klein, who writes for the National Observer and authored the book “A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency,” called on public broadcasters to “make the threat real” for Canadians by engaging in war-time coverage of the fight against climate change.

“Really, in the war, what was journalism for except to awaken the world to the catastrophe coming ahead, which sort of feels apt for the present,” said Klein. 

“The CBC played this pivotal role in mobilizing the Canadian public during the war, making the threat real so that Canadians understood what was unfolding to be a clear and present danger.”

To rile people up to the threat, Global News climate change reporter Razavi suggested that reporters should abandon the “archaic outdated view” of objectivity in journalism. 

“In newsrooms today there is a disconnect between the younger generation of incoming journalists and the old guard including with respect to the question of objectivity. I would say the lasting view in newsrooms still to this day is that objectivity rests on telling both sides of the story,” said Razavi.

“That kind of archaic outdated view is changing thanks in large measure I should say to an influx of BIPOC journalists who are coming into newsrooms and really pushing us to think beyond that binary.”