Insights from Marrakech:  A Journalist Reflects on How to Cover Climate Change

By Emma Bryce | January 06, 2017 | Morocco

Emma Bryce is a London-based freelancer who traveled to Morocco with the International Reporting Project in 2016. Here, she reflects on the unexpected insights to be gleaned from reporting alongside a group of her peers.


I’m a freelance journalist, and I find that one quirk of this largely solitary profession is that you must rely on an internal yardstick to tell you how you’re doing and how to improve your work. This aspect of my career has been empowering, and has undoubtedly built my confidence. But on the other hand, the solitary nature of the work also breeds uncertainty and insecurity about your abilities, which can make it easier to lose sight of your strengths and weaknesses.

Recently, I had a chance to step out of that solitary reality as one of five IRP fellows on a reporting trip to Marrakech. Along with the other journalists, I spent just over two weeks in the country, attending the COP22 climate conference there, and covering related stories.

During this busy time, the five fellows created a supportive hub where we pooled our expertise to share tip-offs, contacts, and notes, record audio, and take photographs for each other. Most of my colleagues were occupied every day covering news about COP22—and when Trump’s election was announced, that intensified. Suddenly, every news event became weightier and more relevant, and consequently the three fellows who were there explicitly to produce coverage for designated publications felt even more pressure to cover news, turning out dozens of insightful pieces in the process.

Seeing these journalists in action was inspiring, especially as they fielded added challenges like food poisoning, having to haul heavy recording gear back and forth from the conference, and navigating the shifting goalposts that Trump’s election introduced into news coverage. But because I’m not a seasoned news reporter it was also easy to feel, in comparison, that I wasn’t producing enough.

After some reflection, and a few helpful conversations with the other freelancer on the trip, I realised however that this actually gave me some insight into my own strengths: I lean naturally towards writing slower-burning stories, where news is typically not the driving factor—which, as a freelancer, I am also lucky to have the freedom to pursue. The IRP trip brought that into focus. It was something I had known unconsciously, but being at the conference crystallised my realisation that these were my strengths, and that I should stick with them.

Witnessing the professionalism of the other fellows was a big part of this. We made up a diverse group of broadcast journalists, climate change reporters, and freelance journalists. We helped each other, but each of us effectively pursued our own interests. The result is that we now have a wide spectrum of coverage on the climate conference and the country as a whole—and plenty of fodder for forthcoming stories, too.

This drove home my realisation that there isn’t necessarily any ‘right’ way in a career as multifaceted as journalism. But there is value to choosing a niche, sticking with it confidently, and making it your own. This discovery was part of what made the IRP trip an invaluable experience for me, and one I am very glad to have had.

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