In November ‘22, I was excited to help launch Annenberg’s Center for Climate Journalism and Communication first partnership with ABC Owned Television Stations. This training initiative, “Covering Climate” provided instruction to a cohort of 25 journalists across a range of beats in eight different ABC markets. Led by our Center Director, Allison Agsten, and ABC’s Director of Data Journalism, John Kelly, this biweekly training spanned over 10 sessions where program participants would gain grounding in the science underpinning climate change, learn how to access and process big data, and develop strategies for maintaining well-being when covering emotionally charged stories.

A great deal of planning had gone into this partnership and I faced a mammoth task of scheduling guest speakers from around the world. I was incredibly pleased at the willingness and enthusiasm our invited speakers had in joining our initiative. We focused on various topics ranging from creating and selecting resonant climate visuals to mental health support in the face of eco-grief. From local climate writers to award winning activists, I knew our training initiative was going to be impactful, not only for our participants but for me.

I was thrilled about our first session in November: “A Leading Activist and an Award-Winning Documentarian Set the Scene” which included two influential speakers on climate. Dr. Vandana Shiva, Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, ecofeminist and anti-globalization author, and Solly Granatstein, Emmy winning show-runner, producer and director, initiated the climate conversation by using their own work to showcase climate analysis and perspectives. I was particularly excited to listen to Dr. Shiva, as I had seen her featured in many documentaries. Dr. Shiva’s book, Soil Not Oil looks at climate change as part of the disruption of the earth systems, agriculture systems, water systems and therefore disrupts livelihoods, specifically the poorer communities. Granatstein discussed his Emmy winning documentary series, “Years of Living Dangerously” which explores the effects of rising sea levels, historic droughts and flooding, water scarcity, ocean acidification, and deforestation. Suffice to say, our first session launched a powerful discussion that jump-started the training initiative.

One of my favorite sessions included Gloria Calderón Kellett, Emmy winning executive producer, co-creator, co-showrunner, director, and actress, who encouraged participants to find and nurture climate stories at any intersection. Calderón Kellet referenced her two latest shows, “One Day at a Time” and “With Love”. I particularly resonated with her method of storytelling: using multigenerational families and props to tell climate stories on television. As the daughter of immigrant parents, I really connected with her theory that immigrants were the first eco-conscious communities who recycled and reused everything. While her latino family repurposed glass jars, shown on “One Day at a Time”, I vividly remember my mother’s large yogurt containers filled with her chopped herbs. I was chuckling at Calderón Kellet’s comment, “You never knew what you were gonna get in the fridge. There was a 50% chance you were getting jelly in the jelly jar.” Playing fridge roulette is a game that I am all too familiar with, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to an experience that was so similar to mine. Through her television shows, Calderón Kellet truly proves the power of storytelling – at an intersection – can be impactful.

As our training initiative wrapped up in March, our participants were given an opportunity to pitch their own climate stories with guest assignment editors and storytellers. Sammy Roth, climate reporter at Los Angeles Times, Christina Bellantoni, director of USC Annenberg’s Media Center, and Stuart Sender, writer, producer, director, journalist, and showrunner, provided participants feedback with examples of their own work. It was inspiring to see how participants developed their own climate stories that involved their communities. And it was evident that their climate literacy had grown exponentially. For me, it was incredible to be a part of this partnership and listen in on the discussion. I have already started to miss the friendly faces of our participants on Zoom and the excitement of introducing the next guest speakers. However, we now have the satisfaction of seeing the fruition of this training. We have recently seen excellent reporting that the ABC stations are generating. ABC7 KGO-TV Bay Area showed a segment on one SF company advancing water recycling technologies. Watch here.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I am very excited to see more impactful climate storytelling yet to come.

Pawan Ahuja is an Academic Program Administrator for the Center for Climate Journalism and Communication. She helped launch the Center’s first partnership with ABC Owned Television Stations.