As publishers lay plans for a new push on climate change, Stuff’s Eloise Gibson has lessons learned from developing a podcast and video series.
The New Zealand publisher’s climate change editor says she was confronted with a call to host the podcast on her first day in the job. “It wasn’t meant for science experts – though we wanted them to like it, too – but had to be appealing to those who don’t necessarily care a lot about climate change in the first place,” she says in an INMA blog.
After talking to podcast director Adam Dudding, a format in which ‘climate-change changemakers’ – including not only scientists and politicians, but also artists, lawyers, “or anyone else with something intriguing to say” – would be interviewed.
In the first season of One Hot Minute, that included an oil company executive, a renowned fantasy author, a lawyer specialising in climate-change litigation, and a physicist who “literally wrote the book” on why it’s hard to give up air travel.
Gibson says the historic challenge for journalists on climate change has been how to make it interesting. “The slow, inexorable nature of this crisis – not to mention decades of industry lobbying that undermined confidence in the science – has often led to public indifference,” she says.
One Hot Minute sought to address this head-on with an easy-to-digest format that was (crucially) short and to the point.
Podcasts were teamed with a series of 60-second videos, playing with the urgency of the crisis by keeping things super-snappy – each guest being given just 60 seconds to deliver a scripted monologue to the camera, during which they could present a ‘big idea’ or a personal anecdote relating to climate change.
“Then, in the associated 25-minute podcast episode, I dug deeper, inviting the guest to unpack their ‘one hot minute’.”
Gibson says she is “deeply immersed” in the topic, so it fell to Dudding to represent a ‘normal’ listener, ruling out any topics or phrases deemed too technical or dry. “I also had to learn to stop asking questions in the meandering style of a print journalist,” she says. “On the airwaves, every question must be self-explanatory and short.”
Guests brought their own specialist knowledge to the problem, and the video and podcast series – production of which was both constrained and delayed by the pandemic – were well received.
Downloads featuring Mark Michel’s recordings of icebergs collapsing in the Ross Sea were used to make an extraordinary soundbed for the episode, were especially good. “It turns out Stuff readers were extremely curious to learn what climate change sounds like,” says Gibson. Including rarely-heard author Elizabeth Knox also helped Stuff tap new and different audiences.
The video and audio assets can be found at www.stuff.co.nz/onehotminute. The series is part of Stuff’s Forever Project, an enduring strand of climate change coverage that also includes the Forever Project quarterly magazine.