Climate Change and the News: Impacts in the Great Lakes

Agenda | Speaker Bios | Participant List | Resources List
Climate Change Seminar for News Leaders | Climate Change and the News Initiative | Training

September 19, 2014

Journalists and speakers participating in the Climate Change Seminar gathered for a photo at the WBEZ offices on Chicago’s Navy Pier. Photo by Karen Southern.

WBEZ Chicago
Navy Pier
848 N. Grand Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

For many, climate change seems not only complex, but distant and slow-moving. In the Great Lakes region, the effects of climate change have already begun to appear, affecting everything from municipal approaches to managing polluted stormwater runoff to commercially important fisheries and international water treaties. How can journalists meet the challenge of covering these stories with accurate and locally relevant stories?


Journalists and speakers benefit from Metcalf Institute programs, gaining new story ideas and contacts. Photo by Karen Southern.

Journalists and speakers benefit from Metcalf Institute programs, gaining new story ideas and contacts. Photo by Karen Southern.





As part of our Climate Change and the News series, Metcalf Institute partnered with WBEZ Chicago to offer a one-day seminar designed to help reporters, producers, photojournalists, and editors better understand climate change science and the specific regional impacts affecting the Great Lakes; provide expert contacts and resources; and inspire solid story ideas to facilitate news coverage of regional climate change impacts. The seminar was held at the WBEZ newsroom overlooking Lake Michigan.


View speaker presentations on Metcalf Institute’s YouTube channel.

Here’s how program participants described the seminar in an anonymous exit survey:

“The training gave me confidence to understand the consensus on climate change, to look for the big picture in my reporting.”

“This seminar provided both valuable knowledge and access to regional experts that are key to writing stories the public will care about.”

“This kind of non-partisan, fact-and-research-based presentation for journalists gives us the resources and understanding we need to help readers understand a vital and complex topic.”

In a post-seminar survey, speakers reported that they benefited significantly from their participation, also. Even though most of the speakers interact with journalists very frequently, 75% of survey respondents indicated that they had greater confidence about their interactions with journalists as a result of the seminar, and expected to do so more often. One speaker concluded, “I think that I probably learned more from speaking and answering questions than the reporters did from me!”

Featuring speakers representing a wide variety of regional expertise, the seminar explored:

  • The physical basis for climate change science
  • Effects of climate change on water quality and supply in the Great Lakes region
  • Relationships between climate change and extreme weather events
  • Impacts of climate change upon Great Lake fisheries, forests, and agriculture
  • Public health challenges raised by climate change
  • How climate change is driving policy and economic decisions in the region

Speakers included:


Professional journalists based in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Ontario were encouraged to apply. The seminar was open to staff journalists and freelancers from all media, and was suitable for applicants from early-career general assignment reporters to veteran environmental reporters and editors. Selections were made to maximize diversity in professional experience, medium, audience, geography, race and ethnicity, and gender.

This program is underwritten by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, with in-kind support from WBEZ-Chicago.

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