By Jena Lynde-Smith

The first ever World Earth Day Live didn’t go quite as planned, but that didn’t stop Carleton’s future journalists.

World Earth Day Live was scheduled for April 22 to celebrate Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. It was set to be a full-day Facebook Live broadcast with journalism programs across the globe to promote climate action. The global project was coordinated by Carleton journalism alumna, Katherine Blair (BJ ’88) who teaches broadcast journalism at Leeds Trinity University in Leeds, England.

Blair came up with the idea in September when thinking of ways to engage her students. She said she was aware of the worldwide movement of students participating in school strikes to highlight climate change as a global crisis and pondered how her class could promote the issue as well.

Katherine Blair

“I then started thinking about how one young girl from Sweden (Greta Thunberg) had created such a massive global movement, and wondered if our small university in the north of England could do something just as big,” said Blair.

And the idea for the virtual event was born.

“The plans for the broadcast was for our students at Leeds Trinity University… to broadcast from our TV studios live onto Facebook for an hour, making use of individual news films, interviews etc.

“We would then ‘take’ the live feed of another university elsewhere for an hour, and keep going for as long as possible around the world to fill as much of World Earth Day as possible,” said Blair.

She began contacting other universities to see if there was interest – and indeed there was. Christine Crowther, an instructor with Carleton’s journalism program, was among those who jumped at the idea. Crowther teaches the program’s Advanced Video class for senior journalism students. The course has students produce individual stories as well as a current affairs program, the 25th Hour.

“We were very excited to be part of the project,” said Crowther. “We take a ‘solutions’ approach to journalism in this course, so this year’s Earth Day theme of ‘climate action’ was a natural fit.”

Crowther said her students spent the semester working on mini-documentaries related to climate action to prepare for the event. They looked for people in Ottawa who were taking steps every day to reduce the impact of human beings on the planet. She said their plan was to tie their third episode of the 25th Hour to the World Earth Day Live program.

“It was fun, especially toward the end of the semester, to have a special project. It was clear some of the students in particular were working extra hard on the small details because they knew they were going to have a global audience,” said Crowther.

They hadn’t anticipated a pandemic and COVID-19 changed the plans. As pandemic lockdowns forced universities to close and students to work remotely, the dream of the live broadcast ended abruptly and most of the stories that students had been working on were cancelled.

But not all of them.

Having already completed their mini-documentaries, nine students in Crowther’s course had three stories they still wanted to share. And they were able to do so.

Giving the students’ hard work the global platform it deserves, Earth Day Live committed to sharing already completed films. Blair and her team collected finished stories from participating universities and shared them via the World Earth Day Live’s social media channels on April 22.

Blair described the films submitted by Crowther’s students – Reclaiming Inspiration, The Box of Life and Farming for Our Future – as beautifully crafted, creative, and professional.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work that was produced and for the efforts of people around the globe,” she said. “I’m hopeful that perhaps we could reinstate the original plan for next year’s World Earth Day to coincide with what will be the 51st anniversary of World Earth Day, and I will be calling on the incredible students from Carleton to see if they will once again take up the challenge.”

See all of the stories shared on World Earth Day Live here.

Monday, May 4, 2020 in ,
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