The Obliging Presstitutes of Climate ‘Journalism’

Luckily, those journalists who’ve specialised in climate and net-zero nuttery have a global Big Brother to train them, “tackle disinformation” and supply daily titbits to print and inspire. More than 15,000 environment/climate reporters from 180 countries are subscribed to the Earth Journalism Network, run by a staff of about 30 (a dozen full-time plus project staff). It also boasts thousands of journos accessing EJN on social media.  

EJN is funded by dozens of foundations – including woke billionaire entities such as the Hewletts and Packards and Rockefeller Brothers, along with official sugar-daddies like the European Commission, UN aid agencies and the US, UK and Swedish governments.

The network was founded in 2004 by the Internews global charity with its charter to strengthen human rights and trust in the media – especially in the Third World. Curiously, Internews originated in San Francisco 1982 to build good relationships between youth, the media and politicians in the US and in the Soviet Union, perhaps overlooking that everyone on the Brezhnev side would be managed by the KGB.

 Internews’ five-year plan is to mobilise journos, techies, lawyers, artists, advocates, and “storytellers” so that “Together, we will build healthy information environments in more than 100 countries across the globe.” (p9). It runs a sister relationship with Internews Network US. Combined, the alliance claims to be “among the two or three largest, if not the largest organisation, working in the media, information and development sub-sector.” (p23).[1]

EJN Executive Director is journo James Fahn, who is also global director of the parent Internews Environmental Programs. He doubles as a journalism post-grad lecturer at University of California, Berkeley. His staff have a significant Australian input, with one assistant, Signi Livingstone-Peters, for example, previously doing PR for Australia’s left/authoritarian Academy of Science. Mr Fahn’s own journalism could benefit from fact-checking. Only last month he co-wrote about Pakistan (my emphasis),

How does a journalist cover events on the ground when a third of a country’s land territory is flooded? They say that journalists write the first draft of history, and there is no bigger story in the 21st century than the climate crisis … Members of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) have been proving the power of local journalism.

This is stirring stuff, but it’s also undiluted hogwash for Fahn to claim Pakistan was a third under water. See below from the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ombudsman after the national broadcaster made the same claim last October:

As a result of your complaint, ABC Online has removed the reference “putting one-third of the country underwater” from the story … As you pointed out, it is suggested that somewhere between 10%-12% of Pakistan was flooded. We are satisfied that this amendment resolves your complaint.Loren Ferrel, ABC Ombudsman’s Office. 

EJN is jostling with many other bad actors to woo the Third World’s media. As one interviewee cited in EJN material remarked,

This may be an increasingly critical need as other foreign funders with potential ulterior motives such as placing country propaganda in the media [as distinct from climate propaganda], are starting to provide funding to media outlets in low- and middle-income countries. (p71)

A case study in how EJN manipulates the media can be found in its briefings for South African journalists. It briefs them with a supposed fact sheet headed, A Journalist’s Guide to Covering Net Zero in South Africa … Getting better at reporting it.” This pathetic tipsheet can be contrasted with today’s reality in that benighted country. Here’s extracts from EJN:

The South African media landscape has plenty of room to improve coverage on South Africa’s journey to net zero in the context of climate change risks and opportunities.

Often, journalists fail to unpack the risks of inaction on climate change (like reducing emissions) or the solutions to fix it while focusing on the economic risks of a move away from coal in the short term…

After pages of such clap-trap, EJN provides its client journos with “suggested story themes”.

What risks will South Africa face if it fails to transition to a low carbon economy by 2050? In contrast, what benefits will the country enjoy from aligning its climate commitments to its developmental agenda? 

♦ How is the climate change bill poised to solidify South Africa’s commitment towards reaching net zero? 

♦ How are big polluters in South Africa using the carbon market to offset their emissions elsewhere – and how effective are these measures in reducing their actual carbon footprint? 

♦ Are domestic finance institutions aligning with the goals of the Paris Agreement and how can South Africa’s sectoral targets and carbon budgets assist in legislating this? 

Here’s what’s actually happening in South Africa today.

South Africa a decade ago became the world’s guinea pig for transitioning to renewables. From independence in 1994, ANC inherited an almost wholly coal-fired electricity system but which soon became uneconomic and dependent on Western aid. Then, in 2013-17,  the World Bank halted funding of coal plants and fossil fuel extraction, forcing South Africa towards renewables. The promise-anything Ramaphosa government told the world in 2020 it was moving to net-zero by 2050. The World Bank last November helpfully loaned $US500 million to help South Africa decommission its coal plants. But with billions spent on 50 wind and solar projects since 2010, the country’s share of renewables has barely shifted, with wind now at 2 per cent, solar at 1.3 per cent, and coal still at 89 per cent. Meanwhile, GDP per capita has sunk 12-15 per cent since 2010.

Last year the lowest-income section of the population suffered grievously from 205 days of rolling, without-notice blackouts in blocks of four hours and without notice. This year’s outages have denied grid power to most homes and businesses for up to ten hours a day, all this while diesel for business’s generators is becoming unaffordable. To May 9, South Africans have spent 27 per cent of the year without power, compared to 9.5 per cent during 2022. The ANC, now at electoral risk, is reconsidering coal investments.

Such is the South African “just and equitable transition” to renewables, “leaving no one behind” as EJN rhapsodises.[2]

EJN money really talks. When EJN offered grants to 20 Third World reporters to attend Egypt’s COP27 Summit last year, it had to turn away 500 applicants. “For each new powerful climate-related story that is produced, many others never actually get reported,” EJN lamented. “Investing in local news may not seem like the most obvious solution to the climate crisis, but it is a key piece of the puzzle. Without independent information, both the dangers of and the solutions to the climate crisis may never be fully understood.”

EJN’s sophisticated influencers train environmental reporters, particularly from the Third World, and provide them with prefabricated stories. This remit includes genuine environmental stories such as illegal logging, fresh water needs and ocean pollution, but the main focus is to spread anti-fossil-fuel messaging. For example, it cites one Pakistani journo client doing a project, “Transforming journalism into activism and policy change”. (p33).

It finances the journos to attend workshops and gives them and their editors money for writing, producing and distributing stories favourable to leftist narratives. Money to editors is tagged “to shore up their environmental coverage.” (p7).

Other cash handouts have bankrolled 500+ Fellowships financing journos to report at UN and NGO conferences. Currently, for example, EJN is offering 25 environment journos in the Mekong region a three-day workshop junket to Chiang Mai, Thailand to schmooz with NGOs and a chance for 16 of them afterwards to pitch a story for a $US1500 EJN grant.

EJN boasts of “training” 15,000 journalists thus directly generating 15,000-plus stories plus a tail of further stories from its acolytes. Close to 11,000 journos have put up their hand for EJN money, nearly 1000 of them successfully. It doesn’t cite the money total but mentions it’s given out more than $US3 million in “sub-grants” alone. It knows that stories with high-quality graphics are the most persuasive, and has helped set up ten regional platforms to help journos bolster their stories with illustrations.

 An EJN graphic says 1.83 per cent of its 15,000 journos are Australian-registered, which suggests quite a large number in our small pool. An odd detail is that the Australian cohort breaks down into 53 per cent women, 15 per cent men and 32 per cent who “consider themselves of another gender”. Such a high representation of multi-genders among Australian environmental journos, although commendably inclusive, seems so unusual that I checked the ratio in other regions, with the following results: Germany – a whopping 53 per cent claiming “another gender”, with only 8 per cent “men” and 40 per cent “women”; France had 50per cent “another gender”, 40 per cent “women” and 10 per cent “men”. In the US, a much lower 11 per cent were “another gender” compared with 60 per cent “women” and 29 per cent “men”.[3]

Looking at the EJN payment handouts is one thing; but how successful is all this in seducing journalists to idolise renewables? EJN has helpfully posted an impact study on-line, showing that once it bankrolls journalists, close to 80 per cent go on to improve their earnings and careers (e.g. freelance fees/job-promotions). EJN quizzed four media outlets after handing them cash, but only one said it was financially sustainable; the other three merely said they’d become a bit more sustainable. (These Third World groups tend to be precarious).

EJN money definitely helped journos pitch better climate stories to their bosses and score a higher success rate on pitches, along with prizes from like-minded green sponsors for their stories. The journos chorused that EJN money had helped them achieve their goals of persuading readers – in their words, “policy and action related to climate change, biodiversity and the environment”.[4] Some used the money to complete expensive projects like anti-corruption investigations, which led to worthwhile reactions by governments.

In one case study, a Filipino journo “Jhesset E” — got a string of EJN grants and workshops for stories. Those included one that “supported partnerships between non-governmental organizations and journalists to cover climate change” and another “about reporting on climate change through a gender lens”. This involved her interviewing women suffering after storms and floods etc which, of course, were attributed – sans evidence –  to “climate change”.

The blockbuster case study involved an EJN client journo from Bangadesh identified as “Illius S”, who was talent-spotted at a three-day EJN workshop on “climate justice” and other non-sequiturs:

His passion for climate reporting took off from there … Following the workshop, Illius received several fellowships and story grants from EJN, which he credited with helping him make the transition to working as a full-time climate journalist.

The enthused Illius came good with a story about climate change causing the cultural loss of babies’ names in Bengal’s coastal villages. According to Illius, babies used to be named after parents’ income source, e.g. “Probal” (coral) and “Shukti” (oyster). But climate change had poisoned the corals and oysters so the villagers’ jobs ended and so did the babies’ names. “Using this unique perspective, Illius has continued to be a prolific climate journalist in Bangladesh,” said the EJN proudly.

However, the EJN’s and Internews’ commendable impact study later by scrutineer Dr Cathy Shutt concluded in essence that (a) Illius’ super-story of climate baby-names was tripe, and (b) Illius wasn’t even a coherent journo and (c) he seemed to be criminalising the half-starved villagers for poaching and smuggling sea critters.[5] P142-3. Eschewing tact, Shutt found

This report certainly has huge areas to improve further…Thus, in this report, the use of ‘climate change’ make no sense and adds no value.

The critique gobsmacked the EJN gurus, who in response blustered about climate change and ocean “acidification” definitely hurting poor little molluscs. The reviewers suggested EJN actually look up some science, because “there is no evidence of such cases in Bangladesh.” Again, EJN blustered but the reviewers opened a new front by saying that despite Illius bewailing climate causing seafront job losses, “it turns out that employment opportunities accelerated in the region for many reasons” including lucrative street trading in drugs.

In a delightful conclusion, the reviewers found that the basic story of climate wiping out names of Bangladeshi babies was not just tripe but,  according to Illius, had been pushed by a lecturer at the original EJN workshop. That same lecturer, when asked, claimed he said the opposite. A literature search then suggested the baby names were religious-based not vocational.[6]

Illius had claimed to EJN that his story had galvanised local authorities and been picked up by the national Bangladeshi media. This was also fact-checked by Dr Shutt, who concluded it was doubtful. His story supposedly appeared in a national outlet called the Business Standard ,which few had heard of and wasn’t mentioned even in a list of 504 national rags. While the Business Standard’s Facebook page had 162,145 followers, Illius’ story earned only six ‘likes’. EJN responded that Business Standard was a “new” outlet.

The world of journalism seethes with well-funded third-party institutions operating night and day to ensure journos stay on-message about alleged climate perils. EJN is just one story in a much larger saga of the way truth is sold down the river when journos are bought and paid for.

Tony Thomas’s new book from Connor Court is Anthem of the Unwoke – Yep! The other lot’s gone bonkers. For a copy ($35 including postage), email


[1][1] Internews Europe, a UK-based charity with 48 staff, budgeted for pds18.3m spending ($A34m) last year. It puts about 30% of its energies into EJN and the environment.

[2] EJN has appointed 15 South African journos among its Fellows.

[3] Another possibility is that the EJN data is nonsense – which doesn’t inspire confidence in EJN.

[4] “This trend is especially significant when compared to respondents from the Asia-Pacific region, 85% of whom stated that their financial opportunities have improved.” P25

[5] Dr Shutt: “In short, a livelihood group was empathised at the beginning of the story and vilified at the end for maintaining a livelihood which is declared illegal for more than two decades, even before the climate change discourse surfaced and popularised in public and policy domain… I found this claim very inappropriate from the ethical standard of journalism and moral bearing. This is very well recognised that people who collect oysters on the coast are extremely poor and do not have much choice. Therefore, in no professional standard, it sounds appropriate to make such vulnerable group victim of one’s novel work. I think this is our moral duty to protect our informants and vulnerable people.” (EJN Editor’s note: There has been much internal discussion over who the reporter was referring to when using words like “smuggler,” and we did not have time to verify whether it was gang leaders or the poor, marginalized collectors.)

[6] Keeping my local angle going, the study remarked, “The Cultural Atlas (IES, 2020) also recognises this fact for Bangladesh immigrants in Australia.”

2 thoughts on “The Obliging Presstitutes of Climate ‘Journalism’

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    Tony T,
    If I had a global project that I wished to highlight through global media, chances are I would end up with a similar structure to EJN, with enthusiastic supporters to spread my main messages. Seems to me that the problem is not one of business structures or methods so much as one of legitimacy of the core message. The climate change story has very little proper science in its favour, so it starts its life with a severe handicap. To counter strong, predictable criticism, we have the invention of the synthetic cancel culture, redefinition of what is truth in science and other dirty tricks.
    Thank you for describing this matter in your usual deeply-researched manner. Geoff S

  • pmprociv says:

    Thanks, Tony, for a story that would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad — have the loonies taken over the asylum yet?

    Now, I’d guess that all those lucky EJN trainee fellows would travel to their junkets by pushbike, to avoid carbon pollution? Or do they walk?

    Seeing that the world has always been affected by floods, droughts, famines, plagues, fires, cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, avalanches, changing sea levels, drifting continents, shifting ocean currents, species extinctions (and emergence of new species) etc., while its climates have always been changing as well, it’s only logical to link every disaster with climate change (in the old days, our forebears attributed them all to various gods, which is much the same thing — and all as punishment for our wickedness). The only thing missing is the distinction between causation and association — I wonder if the EJN fellows are taught anything about this, or is it too difficult for them?

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