Media and Public Relations

There has recently been an enormous growth in the environmental media industry with television, radio, magazines, books, websites, exhibits and interpretation centres contributing to the quality and amount of material available.

The people who control and direct the industry tend to come from journalistic backgrounds, but many of the people who make the films, write the books and magazine articles, and take the photographs are ecologists by training or persuasion. The BBC Natural History Unit provides an excellent example of effective symbiosis between media personnel and ecologists.

The Work

Writing about the environment – Many national newspapers and magazines employ environment correspondents. Professional ecologists and campaigning journalists may also be paid to write articles for newspapers, magazines and journals. This kind of writing is mainly ‘piece’ work, in which an author is commissioned to write (or may write and then submit) articles to magazines like British WildlifeNatural World or New Scientist. Larger commissions (e.g. for books on environmental topics) are arranged by publishing houses or sometimes by organisations such as the statutory conservation agencies. Staff of these agencies are often required to produce reports and booklets about conservation issues for publication.

Increasingly, information is being made available through the internet, so there is a growing demand for people who are able to design websites. A career in journalism may also provide opportunities for foreign travel.

Editorial and commissioning work – Publishers of magazines and books about the environment (including NGOs such as the RSPB and National Trust) employ editorial staff who work with or commission material produced by others. Photographs, as well as written material, are in demand (also see ‘Science and Research’ section).

Radio, television and film – Production of films and broadcasts about wildlife and the environment creates openings for presenters, researchers, technicians, film crews and producers. The popularity of wildlife films and programmes gives this kind of job a romantic appeal. Not surprisingly, competition is intense and those who are successful often work on short contracts.

Public relations and environmental interpretation – The dramatic growth of NGOs and the need for them to create and maintain an effective public image offers opportunities for ecologists who are good communicators. Publicity managers and fundraisers are employed by NGOs. Statutory agencies, too, have publicity and press officers. Many organisations, including NGOs, statutory conservation agencies, Forest Enterprise, national parks authorities and local authorities, run visitor centres to inform the general public about nature reserves, parks and other areas of ecological or landscape value and to generate appreciation of the environment.

Scope also exists in museums, zoos, and botanic gardens for work in environmental education, interpretation and customer care. Much of the work involves the maintenance and display of collections, but the modern emphasis has moved on from the simple acquisition of material to exhibits that demonstrate how conservation and biodiversity can be achieved. There are specialist groups, such as the Museums Association, which provide an introduction to careers in museum work.

Campaigning – The chief activity of many NGOs is campaigning on environmental issues. The effectiveness of these organisations depends to a large extent on employing forceful and credible campaign promoters and political lobbyists (also see ‘Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)).

The Employers

Different categories of employer are:

  • Publishers of books, magazines and newspapers (scientific journals are covered under the ‘Science and Research’ section)
  • Radio, television and film companies
  • Environmental NGOs
  • Statutory nature conservation and countryside agencies
  • Museums, zoos and botanical gardens