Haroldo Castro was still a teenager when an assignment for the Brazilian newspaper “Correio da Manhã” took him to Sweden. It was an official visit and all fellow Swedish journalists were expecting a seasoned professional, not a boy full of pimples. Haroldo decided to face the challenge. He took photos of everything and interviewed lots of serious people. When he returned to Rio de Janeiro he published a series of four articles. "I understood that, if I was going to continue in the business of photo reporting, I also needed to write my own stories." Since then, photography and journalism melted in a single word and Haroldo started to call himself a photojournalist.
The activity of writing articles and editing photographs to build feature stories took shape in 1976, when he created with hs wife Flavia, a number of packages of photos and texts for newspapers and magazines. Even the book Haroldo wrote in 1987, A Corrida do Fogo, was presented as a journalistic essay.
"It was only when environmental journalism started to be recognized as a serious movement, in the mid 80's, that I re-ignited my interest to just reporting," says Haroldo. After a few experiments with a Brazilian environmental publication, Haroldo was convinced that the conservation message would only reach the large public if journalists were well prepared to report about it.
During the 90's Haroldo Castro started to design and implement a series of training seminars for journalists interested in covering the environment in biodiversity-rich countries. "We could not call those media professionals 'environmental journalists' as they were asked by their editors to cover everything, from sports to government. But all participants in our seminars had a special concern to protect nature and their country's natural richness." In 1994, a seminar in Guyana triggered the formation of an association of environmental journalists in Georgetown.
During these workshops, when discussing about challenges and bottlenecks, most of the journalists recognized that they needed to create a larger space for environmental news within their own media house. "We had to create different mechanisms to help those young journalists, full of goodwill, to do better reporting about important environmental issues," states Haroldo.
An innovative award
One answer emerged in Cebu, Philippines, during the 4th Annual Congress of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists (IFEJ). "I was discussing with Michael Schweres and Valentin Thurn, two of the leaders of IFEJ, about how we could better acknowledge the work of environmental reporters," evokes Haroldo. "After a long bus ride, we concluded that we should create a simple but effective award to recognize media professionals and organizations." It took many months to concretize the idea, which became then also supported by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), and finally the Biodiversity Reporting Award was born.
The contest was first launched in 1999, as a pilot project in Guyana and Guatemala, to increase the quantity of environmental reporting, improve the quality of environmental reporting through capacity-building and training, recognize the outstanding work of key print journalists covering environmental issues, and stimulate their continued efforts.
Today the Biodiversity Reporting Award takes place in a number of countries around the world and promotes and recognizes excellence in biodiversity reporting.
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