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Journalism award to explore climate change disinformation

This year’s Bruce Jesson senior journalism grant has been awarded to Christchurch writer Byron C Clark to support an investigation into the spread of climate change disinformation online.

Clark’s book published earlier this year, Fear: New Zealand’s Hostile Underworld of Extremists, was described by the programme director of Auckland University’s Master of Conflict and Terrorism Studies, Chris Wilson, as “a crucial starting point for anyone seeking to understand the alt-right in New Zealand”.

Clark now believes that climate change “has emerged as a suitable substitute for Covid-19 in the conspiracist metanarratives”.

“Like the anti-mandate movement, it amalgamates those who believe that anthropogenic climate change is real, but that it is being used to push a putative ‘elite’ agenda; those who believe climate change is a hoax; and those who believe that the effects of climate change are the result of a deliberate conspiracy to manipulate the weather,” he says.

He plans to write a series of articles “examining the false narratives around climate change, the roots of these ideas, the local groups spreading them and relevant overseas linkages.”

Bruce Jesson Foundation co-chair Simon Collins says the foundation has agreed to give its 2023 senior journalism grant of $1000 to help pay for Clark’s living expenses while he researches and writes the series.

“This series will clearly be ‘a work of critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues’, as required by our criteria,” Collins said.

The Jesson journalism grants were initiated in 2004 in memory of the Auckland journalist and politician Bruce Jesson, who died in 1999. Previous winners include Nicky Hager, Jon Stephenson, Max Rashbrooke, Rebecca Macfie, Aaron Smale and Denise Piper.

Unlike other journalism awards, which are given for already-published work, the Jesson award is paid in advance to fund the time and costs required for an investigative project. Details are available at the Bruce Jesson Foundation website.

 

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