These media that will no longer use bathing or beach photos to illustrate heat waves

Children on the beach or locals cooling off in a fountain. When a heat wave or a heat wave is observed in France, these images are regularly used, including by France Inter, to illustrate articles that relate these consequences of global warming. Except that they give an erroneous representation of reality. To broadcast, journalists and media, like the news site “Vert”, campaigning for a change in practices. Others, like the daily “Le Monde”, have decided to change things within their editorial staff.

If in France, the approach is starting to make the rounds of the media (and social networks), it is in some countries much older. In England, for example, The Guardian was one of the first newspapers to be rated the choice of its illustrations, so that it corresponds to the article without misleading the reader.

Au Monde, on “rethinking the illustration of subjects”

Stop illustrating articles on heat waves with ice creams or bathers, this is the reflection that the newspaper “Le Monde” produced a few years ago. “We started talking about it after reading an editorial from the Guardian on the subject explains Pauline Eiferman, deputy editor-in-chief of Le Monde’s photo department, made up of around fifteen people. They are the ones who choose which photos will illustrate the subjects of the journalists, and who distribute the photographers in the field when necessary. “The editorial made us realize a lot of things. We all talked about it together. Then it took quite a long time, we had to review the way we illustrated the subjects, both in the editorial department and in the planet service”she continues.

Since, no official instructions “but a real approach” in everyday lifewho “asks the question every time” that it is necessary to illustrate an article on this subject. And that requires some adaptations. “For example, if we can’t find an illustration that suits us, we will sometimes send a photographer or call on a specialized agency” details Pauline Eiferman. Which also requires a certain budget. But by implementing these changes, “the photos are much more impactful, with real captions that serve the article.” Now, to the “World”, “Illustrating an article on a heat wave with a fountain is prohibited” Pauline smiles.

It is necessary “that the words and the images correspond”

An initiative that necessarily speaks to Loup Espargilière, editor-in-chief of the “Green” independent media, which talks about ecology on a daily basis. On Tuesday June 14, he published a series of Tweets on Twitter denouncing the “images of vacationers delighted to be at the beach” to talk about this new heat wave “which will put a strain on our organisms, our agriculture and all of biodiversity” adds the journalist. “We have to talk about the effects of the human organism, the agricultural crops that will resist” he explains. For the founder of “Vert”, we must even go further: “The images that just talk about the heat are still too imprecise, it has to illustrate the subject precisely. It’s a whole imagination to reinvent” when we talk about the climate crisis.

But even with good will, it is sometimes difficult to find how to illustrate your article. “As a publisher, I subscribe to a photo agency and I struggle to find photos that are not clichés” says Wolf. Do not ban photos of children at the beach, but do so when it is an article about children at the beach. The words and images have to really match.” journalist points out another problem: “In the media, heat waves have become a chestnut tree. It’s a real concern, because people come to believe that it’s normal.”

“We still feel that practices are changing” he tempers. Moreover, by looking for examples of erroneous illustrations in the media, he found that things were moving in the right direction. “Also because we are the voice of citizens and scientists exasperated by this situation.

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In his article published on June 14 on the journalistic coverage of the waves of heat, the “Green” shares a study (which still needs to be validated) in English, driven by eight sscientists. It analyzes the media coverage of the 2019 heat wave in several European countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). The conclusion : “Many of the illustrations paint a positive picture (unlike the articles) of heat waves, which could be described as ‘fun in the sun'”. They also specify that these photos “marginalize the experiences of people vulnerable to heat waves” and “this rules out opportunities to imagine a more resilient future.”

Ecology “is no longer a section”

The same problem of processing this information is posted on television. After working at Cash Investigation and Special Envoy, journalist Sophie Roland is now training in journalism schools and newsrooms, to learn how to better deal with climate-related topics. “I covered these issues, notably for Special Envoy and Thalassa. I realized myself that I lacked knowledge. And then I said to myself wow, there’s a lot of work to do!” explains the investigative journalist. “The problem is that many media will film people in bathing suits or polar bears to talk about the climate issue” she adds. Insufficient according to many journalists. But it is changing. For instance, “Monday June 13, in the 8 p.m. of France 2, Anne-Sophie Lapix spoke about global warming from the launch of her report”Note Sophie.

According to her, and this is what she explains in particular in training, “The links must be made between the events. We must also show that a heat wave is painful for the elderly or those who work outdoors”. “And then, we also have to talk about solutions. And now, what do we do? How do we adapt our cities to the situation?” “It’s still loaned, but the lines are moving. Ecology is no longer a section. There is an awareness” she assures. She notices “a real request” newsrooms, made up of journalists “who realize that they have a lack of knowledge of these issues and who are waiting for keys”. With, for example, this training on the treatment of subjects on the climate planned for the start of the school year at France Télévisions, and open to journalists from the public service.

A charter for ecological journalism in writing

Sophie, with around thirty journalists and media, including “Vert”, are in the process of winning a “good practice” charter on this subject. “The idea is to make journalists aware of questions of ecology and biodiversity” says Sophie Roland. The charter will include 13 points, such as demonstrating pedagogy, transparency, or even… questioning the images used. It will be out in the next few weeks.

If awareness is slow, it seems to be on the way. Like the journalist and weather presenter of BFMTV, Marc Hay, who took a position on the air, ensuring that he “We need to change the way we talk about it”. Adding: “France will burn this week!” A message widely shared on social networks.

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