Ramirez joins CNN’s Climate Team

Posted on Jun 09 2021


Rachel Ramirez joins the CNN Climate team as a newswriter/reporter in New York this week. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Saipan Southern High School alumna Rachel Ramirez is the newest addition to CNN’s Climate Team as a writer and reporter, and she hopes to draw on her experience when Typhoon Soudelor devastated the CNMI in 2015 to tell more stories about climate impacts on vulnerable communities.

Being from the CNMI, which is geographically in waters considered a typhoon highway, environment, and climate issues remain close to Ramirez’s heart.

“The story I like to tell folks is that I got into journalism because of a climate disaster. When Typhoon Soudelor came barreling toward the Marianas in 2015 while I was away for college and I lost contact with my family, I felt helpless. No major national news outlet covered the typhoon until it reached mainland Asia. I remember writing an amateur news report and submitting it to CNN’s iReport platform, which never got published but it still gave the URL, which I shared on Facebook and was quickly widely shared. I was determined to tell stories about vulnerable communities then,” she said.

Ramirez believes that telling climate change stories is not only about disasters like typhoons, hurricanes, or wildfires. “It’s also about an oil and gas or plastics company releasing harmful pollutants into the air next to a predominantly Black community in Louisiana or a waste incinerator or landfill setting up shop next to a large immigrant community in New Jersey. It’s also about historically marginalized Black neighborhoods suffering more from extreme heat compared to White neighborhoods, because they lack community investments like green parks and trees that cool the air. Understanding these intersectionalities are crucial to climate conversations,” she added.

In March, CNN announced that it is building a climate team that will focus on climate and environment news. In a memo written by CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker, he said they are formalizing and expanding their climate coverage with a dedicated force.

Ramirez explained that the CNN Climate Team is a new initiative within CNN’s News and Digital platform, in recognition of the evolving conversation related to climate change—from being purely scientific to being about its causes and effects on communities. “Many people, particularly CNN’s audience, don’t really understand that climate change affects all aspects of life and issues from immigration to economy as well as housing,” she said “My job is to make the audience understand that there’s more to climate science and that climate change is a crisis that touches all social issues and needs to be addressed immediately, because it’s affecting the most vulnerable populations. My job is to deliver impact journalism about climate change by telling stories of communities and scientific breakthroughs.”

Ramirez was a curious young girl who was always reading and writing. “I always loved writing. …I would write little poems, songs, prose here and there, but I didn’t necessarily think I was good at it.”

Ramirez had lived in both the Philippines and Saipan and was immersed in the Tagalog and Ilocano languages there and then back to English when on Saipan. “Having to code-switch and navigate both languages and being told by teachers to ‘fix my accent’ were difficult for me. It definitely affected me, so I wanted to prove them otherwise through writing,” she said.

Her favorite classes at Saipan Southern High were English classes, specifically AP Literature and AP Language. She has fond memories of her English teachers, Paul Miura and Jonathan Aguon, whom she credits with playing big roles in her journey.

“I remember Mr. Aguon would give us journal entries and make us learn difficult AP vocabulary words, which I find myself using until this day. During my 18th birthday…I remember [Mr. Aguon] giving me a simple purple composition notebook that I brought with me to college. Though I’m not exactly sure where it went, I’m pretty certain it’s filled with my writings,” she added.

Ramirez graduated from the University of Portland where she majored in Communication Studies with a focus on Journalism and a minor in French Studies. This environment helped pave the way to a career in journalism. “I started out as a student journalist at University of Portland’s campus newspaper called The Beacon. While at The Beacon, I also had internships at local news publications in Portland, including the Oregon Business Magazine and the Pulitzer Prize-winning weekly newspaper Willamette Week,” she said.

Before landing a job at CNN, Ramirez was freelancing and it was her entry into the Grist fellowship program that brought her into the field of climate change and environmental justice. “… My secret dream is to write a climate or historical fiction book one day based on all the stories I’ve heard or maybe simply a memoir about my life,” she said.

Her foray into the world of reporting is not without a hint of a crusade, with Ramirez acutely aware of the overall state of mainstream journalism in terms of diversity and media representation.

“Each time I step into a newsroom since I started my career, I was always surrounded by white journalists—never anyone that looked like me—a woman journalist of color who came from a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean. Without journalists of color, how else will our stories be told accurately? Who will tell the true story of the forced removal of Native Americans from their lands without Native journalists? The surge of pandemic-related anti-Asian violence without Asian journalists? The massive pollution coming out of oil and gas refineries that’s causing Black Americans to suffer from cancer and other respiratory illnesses without Black journalists? I want to be that person I was looking for when I first stepped into journalism.”

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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