Friday, October 27, 2006

The State of Local Environmental Journalism

I’ve whined here in the past about the pathetic state of environmental news reporting at the papers in the Long Island Sound area, but even I was surprised at how bad things are at the New Haven Register. Twenty-two newsroom positions have been eliminated since the start of the year, and the metro desk is now down to one editor and seven reporters. The Yale Daily News contrasts this with the Lansing State Journal, which covers an area of similar size in Michigan: it has an editor, two assistant editors, a deputy editor and 15 reporters.

There’s reasonably good New Haven-area coverage in the online-only New Haven Independent, which a veteran journalist named Paul Bass started a year or so ago in response to the frustrations of working in the mainstream media. It’s a worthy and admirable effort, but it’s still small and doesn’t carry much environmental news either.

The Connecticut Post, on the other hand, has recently modernized the look of its news website to feature three important news areas. “Local News” and “Police Log” are the first two. The third is “Pet News.” I only wish I were joking.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You call attention to a long-term trend that seems to be accelerating. Ten years ago, nearly every daily paper had someone assigned to the environment beat. Now only a few, such as the New London Day and Danbury News-Times, have regular environment reporters. The result is that environmental trends and events go unrecorded and unnoticed, other than some of the very high profile ones. There are some exceptions, and I do think I have detected more articles recently in the Hartford Courant, by various reporters. (Of course, the Courant has the always-interesting Steve Grant, but his province is separate from day-to-day environmental news.) I don't delude myself into thinking that newspaper readers (are there any of us left?) thirst for environmental news articles every day, but I do think the newspapers underestimate our interest.

Pet news!!!!!!!! (Will they be doing features on the harm to wildlife caused by pets and their owners?)


10:24 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

You have to admit is it not a coincidence that a guy on a Internet blog is bemoaning the lack of environmental reporting in newsprint. Touche monsieur!

But it is a real curious situation, because the environment - even Global Warming - is now considered mainstream and not leftist politics. I am reminded of an environmental lawyer who defended large power plants; he said "Sam it's just my day job, my bread and butter. I joined the Sierra Club many years ago. I give about $15,000 to them a year. What do YOU do for the environment?"

Geez, I was rather dumbfounded at that, maybe involved in saving a Kemp's Ridley turtle or two and dumping at most about $500 out of my pocket. I think what we're seeing is that the environmental folks have gone commercial. Instead of having solid newspaper environmental reporting, as the good old days was, you now had newspaper advertisements of several column inches. It is a very large business.

If one is going to point fingers, it is that the number of competing environmental groups is bewildering. You can save a turtle, promote solar, help buy conservation land, rescue birds, plant eel grass, and even trade CO2 credits on the EU Exchange. The business is so fractured it seems nobody has a clue what's going on with all the pieces-parts.

In fact, most people don't even call it environmental work even more. People recycle all kinds of things and yes, there is a gal in Texas who recycles neckties and turns them into cocktail dresses, many fetching hundreds of dollars each. Another company up by Denver recycles cell phones, like almost a million a year. These are environmental issues but we tend to think of them as pure business.

I don't doubt KW posting that is it very hard to see what the heck the trends are and how things work together. That was a good point. For some reason, the "big-picture" environmental writers just don't sell these days. I am at wit's end to explain it.

But as my ex-boss used to say, you just have one catastrophic release like worse than Bhopal, right here in America, and you'll have more environmental reporters than stink on shapoopie. /Sam

11:09 PM  

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