Long-time Daily Express environment editor John Ingham has said that despite perceptions, his newspaper has been “right up there all along” on green reporting.
Ingham retired on Friday – two days after winning the environment and energy prize at Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards for spearheading the Daily Express’ campaigning environmental reporting.
The British Journalism Awards judges praised Ingham for helping to change the editorial direction of the Daily Express. But speaking to Press Gazette, he said the paper’s stance has been pro environment for many years.
He said: “For a long time there were only two papers on Fleet Street with environment columnists: the Daily Express and the Sunday Express. So in the broader sense of the environment, we’ve been right up there all along…
“For instance, we’re raising money to buy a bird reserve with the RSPB, and our readers have donated about £45,000 to that.”
However, he added: “We had a couple of editors who were climate sceptics. So it didn’t always come through.”
The awards judges praised the Daily Express for “changing its editorial stance in recent years to become a leading voice campaigning for the environment and securing positive change”.
Ingham, who joined the Express in 1989 and has covered the environment since 1996, was congratulated on his rigorous and incisive journalism.
In 2015 the Daily Express became the only national newspaper to have endorsed UKIP in an election, at a time when the party’s manifesto called for reinvestment in the coal industry. The next year it published an article titled: “What global warming? Staggering study says temperatures rose more BEFORE 1997”.
But just under five years later, the paper was warning in an editorial written by Ingham: “Britons are worried about the loss of wildlife and the threat posed by climate change, not just for them but for their children and grandchildren… for far too many centuries we have acted as if the planet is a limitless resource for our convenience.”
What had allowed the paper to go from flirting with climate change denial to winning an award for environment journalism?
“Well Gary’s been hugely supportive”, Ingham said, referring to Express editor Gary Jones, who has also overseen major changes in the paper’s tone on immigration and Islam since he assumed the role in 2018. Jones became editor after Daily Mirror publisher Reach (then called Trinity Mirror) bought the Express titles from Richard Desmond in 2018.
“All the editors previously were hugely supportive when it came to writing about nature and so on and so forth. Gary’s totally another step forward. He’s been very supportive. I couldn’t have asked for more from him in covering the whole environmental gamut”, said Ingham.
In the past year, Ingham’s articles have covered tidal energy, protests by “Generation Greta”, the first official UK death attributed to air pollution, a bear rescue mission, the rise of vegetarianism and, above all, birds.
“I’ve been a bird watcher since I was about five years old”, he told Press Gazette — an interest he picked up after his mother tamed a house sparrow who would visit their kitchen daily for food.
In a column published as he retired on Friday, Ingham said: “For a time, the Daily Express flirted with the [climate] sceptics, something I was never happy with.
“But in recent years the Daily Express has gone with the scientific consensus… Letters from sceptics are fewer and more likely to question the measures the UK is taking to tackle climate change”.
“Most importantly, the vitriol has gone. Instead, the debate isn’t whether man is changing the climate but how this can be stopped or reduced. That has to be progress.”
That progress allowed Ingham an intrepid final act to his career at the Express.
“I mean, every reporter who wins a prize says this, but I can’t thank [Jones] enough, because he’s allowed me to spread my wings. He’s backed me travelling the world, going to places like the Solomon Islands, with huge expense, but to find very good stories, in my opinion”.
What next for Ingham? There was a clue in his final Express column: “Now where are those binoculars?”