Investigating the environment in developing countries can be a particularly dangerous game, far from the Western media spotlight.
Past studies have analyzed climate change coverage in the news media, but a new study is the first to dig into the content of Facebook posts from climate-related NGOs.
A conversation with Nina Lakhani, author of “Who Killed Berta Cáceres? Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender's Battle for the Planet."
On April 26, our President suggested that reporters who earned "Noble" (sic) Prizes for reporting on "the Russian hoax" return their awards. The President should have caught his own misspelling, since he'd be a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize in Twitterature, if it weren't a Fake Award.
He also should have known that it's the Pulitzer Prizes, not the Nobels, for which journalists compete. And this year, a Pulitzer went to one of his favorite purveyors of "fake news" for reporting on another of his favorite "hoaxes," climate change. Multiple Washington Post journalists shared the Explanatory Journalism Pulitzer for a multi-part series on climate change impacts.
Four more of what we now call "legacy" media were 2020 Pulitzer finalists reporting on science/environment themes. What the President likes to call the "failing" New York Times failed once more. Fifteen of its stories on the Trump Administration's own failures to follow science at EPA, NOAA, the Interior Department and other agencies earned Finalist honors in the Public Service category.
Nestor Ramos of the Boston Globe was a feature writing finalist for a report on the devastating climate impacts on the oversized sandbar known as Cape Cod. The Wall Street Journal staff were Investigative Pulitzer finalists for series on the California utility giant PG&E and its culpability in causing the wildfires that erased the town of Paradise, California. Editorial writer Jill Burcum of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was an opinion finalist for a piece on proposed nickel mines near the Boundary Waters Canoe area on the Canadian border.
A winner and four finalists is a pretty good haul for a beat that many, including its practitioners, consider to be long-neglected. In recognizing the Post, the Pulitzer jury called the work a "groundbreaking series." Good? Absolutely. Thorough? Thoroughly. Deserving reporters, editors and support staff? Yes. Both the Post and the New York Times have been assembling all-star teams on the beat for several years.
But groundbreaking, it's not. Traditional newsrooms, nonprofits, and even broadcasters have been breaking this ground for quite a while now. The Pulitzer Board has recognized groundbreaking work on the environment most years for the past three decades.
Several years ago at a meeting organized by Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I introduced Mark Schleifstein as having shared in two Pulitzers at the Times-Picayune for his work on Louisiana's battery of environmental threats, from Hurricane Katrina to Gulf fisheries to vanishing wetlands. The veteran environment reporter smiled quietly and corrected me by holding up three fingers. He's also been a finalist twice more.
Sadly, environmental journalists might sweep the field in the as-yet imaginary Pulitzer category I'd like to see. Reporters whose work predicted coalfield catastrophes, chemical calamities, hurricane horrors and other disasters would be prime candidates for the Pulitzer Prize for I-Told-You-So. I wrote about this for Ensia in 2017.
What's the moral of this story? There are several, take your pick. Environmental stories are sort of like critically-successful films that only play in 30-seat art cinemas in college towns and Bohemian neighborhoods. They deserve better. Despite the dire straits that so many newspapers are in, cutting your special beat reporters is cutting your relevance to your community. TV news operations should follow CNN and NBC and restore the environment, or climate change, as a full-time beat.
These Pulitzer-worthy environmental stories, and thousands more, look smart today and with precious few exceptions, will look even smarter in 20 years. When that happens, don't say I didn't tell you so.
Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org(opens in new tab) or on Twitter at @Pdykstra.
From Australia to the Arctic to your neighborhood, environment and energy news is already heating up as 2020 kicks off — and the election promises to add fuel to the fire. On January 24, attendees got a head start on the year's top stories at SEJ's 8th annual "Journalists' Guide to Energy & Environment" at the National Geographic Society's auditorium in Washington, DC.
The Marshall Islands show that the comfort and security of the United States have not come without a price.
We lost a reader yesterday. And I am more than fine with that.
"Floyd" wrote in asking why we "post so many links to NY Times, when we are not allowed to read Times articles online without payments?"
"I dislike this very much and will stop visiting your site," he added.
Floyd's note arrived at the end of an extraordinary week that saw journalists scrambling to get fast-changing developments on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, trying to make sense of disarray in Europe, offering insight & perspective on potentially bell-weather elections in Virginia and Kentucky, and – within the New York Times, finding space and time to cover Trump administration rollbacks from the Paris Climate Agreement to water pollution from coal plants.
So maybe I was a little harsh on Floyd. "We post from the New York Times because it has become the de facto paper of record for the United States; it makes an enormous investment in a far-flung reporter staff; it publishes a wide range of in-depth, accurate, objective journalism; and an online subscription only costs $15 a month," I wrote back.
"We hope you continue to read us," I added. "But our mission – for which foundations generously support us – is to bring the best news about the safety of our health and environment to light. And as long as papers with modest subscription costs like the New York Times, the Washington Post and The Guardian to publish such news, we'll continue to post it."
Stephan Pastis, creator of the syndicated comic strip "Pearls Before Swine," nailed this last month with his sketch of a conversation between Goat and Pig. Pig thinks a city planner asked for a bribe during a permit application. Goat replies such corrupt behavior would surely have been exposed. Enter a former journalist, laid off after subscriptions tanked.
"If you're not paying for journalism, you're paying to not have journalism."
Time to go renew some subscriptions.
I've made it to most of the Society of Environmental Journalists' 29 annual conferences, but not this one.
SEJ is the Jimmy Carter of non-profits – overlooked in real-time, but looking better and smarter with each passing year. This year's conference wraps up Sunday in Fort Collins, Colo (follow the action on social media via #SEJ2019).
SEJ's first national conference took place in 1991. It's now older than many of its members. At least one or two of its current Board members were fetuses back then. Most of its charter members are in their sixties, seventies, or beyond. Or gone. The membership used to be weighted toward full-time environment writers for daily newspapers. Now, the core is freelance journalists (though I've been trying to push the frequently more accurate term "subsistence journalists").
The beat has been re-energized in such legacy media giants as the Washington Post and New York Times. But SEJ's strength also lies in a proliferation of new sites doing dynamic investigative work and vivid storytelling.
Here are but a few:
A collection of long-reads on environmental issues in the American South. The year-old startup is the work of Lyndsey Gilpin, who seeks to fill in the gaps in a region vastly underserved in environmental reporting and storytelling.
Two years ago, the Arizona-based advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity launched a news site, The Revelator. Its well-told stories on species, habitats, and politics rapidly became a must-read.
When a startup site wins a Pulitzer, as Inside Climate News did six years ago, it suddenly no longer looks like a startup. But publisher David Sassoon's masterful adherence to an ambitious business plan can stand as a model for all others. It turns 12 years old this month.
Another Pulitzer winner, MIT's Deborah Blum, puts out a stream of big-think pieces at Undark. Its tagline: Truth, beauty, science.
There are too many other quality sites to mention, but here are four more that shouldn't be ignored: The solution-oriented theme of Ensia; the urban-ish tone of CityLab; the food-oriented scoops of FERN; and the saltwater stories of Hakai Magazine.
One recent casualty in the perilous world of nonprofit publishing is Pacific Standard, whose deep dives into environmental stories will be missed. Its main funder pulled the plug in August.
With climate change finally breaking through as a frontline issue for virtually all news outlets, and a zillion other plagues – ocean plastics, glyphosate, water quality, Trump's regulatory purge – making waves, our beat is poised to rise in prominence for the worst of all reasons: Out home planet is literally a hot mess.
We also press forward with an uncomfortable form of vindication: The planet is indeed warming up, and despite some strong efforts, getting dirtier. Species are indeed disappearing. So are habitats, from Arctic ice to tropical forests. Just like SEJ members and others have been reporting for decades.
The beat continues to face traditional foes: Indifference or timidity on the part of some bosses; the shaky financial footing for all journalism; well-heeled, slick, and often unprincipled interests who like to portray our news as Fake News.
But the beat goes on, and it's more crucial than ever.
The world's largest gathering of environmental journalists starts Wednesday, with hundreds of journalists focusing on climate change, energy development, water scarcity, population growth and environmental health.
The Society of Environmental Journalists' 29th Annual Conference kicks off at the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins, Colo. Much of the discussion will focus on the strain explosive growth in recent decades has placed on environmental health and sustainability goals.
EHN.org senior editor Brian Bienkowski will be there, hosting a Saturday panel on environmental justice and harmful chemical exposures. And EHN.org regional reporter Kristina Marusic will travel from Pittsburgh to accept her honorable mention for beat reporting during the SEJ Journalism Awards luncheon. Follow them on Twitter at @EnvirHealthNews, @TheDailyClimate and @KristinaSaurusR.
The five-day conference includes sessions on climate change, energy development, water scarcity and politics, public lands management, agriculture and social justice (and injustice). "These are themes and topics central to this region—and to the rest of the country and the world," write conference co-chairs Susan Moran, a freelance journalist and host of KGNU's science show, "How On Earth", and Joshua Zaffos, a High Country News correspondent and environmental communications instructor at Colorado State University.
You can also track reactions and insight gleaned by reporters—and sources—from across the nation and world as events unfold by tracking the hashtag #SEJ2019.
In a recent chat with @think_or_swim on next steps for journalism on a heating, fast-forward planet, we touched on… https://t.co/1KiylbsCoc— Andrew Revkin 🌎 ✍🏼 🪕 ☮️ (@Andrew Revkin 🌎 ✍🏼 🪕 ☮️)1562931942.0
Wednesday starts with workshops on covering Indian Country and climate change, among others, and include speakers such as Ed Maibach of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication.
Thursday shifts the entire conference to the field for reporting trips to the state's oil and gas fields, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Rocky Mountain National Park, among other destinations.
Friday and Saturday are dedicated to plenary and concurrent sessions, including Bienkowski's session on environmental justice and endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure. Speakers include Patricia Hunt of Washington State University, Tamarra James-Todd of Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and freelance reporter Lynne Peeples.
Sunday concludes with authors Joel Berger, Beth Gardiner, Heather Hansman and Laura Pritchett talking books and botany.
The painkiller, taken by half of pregnant women worldwide, could be contributing to rising rates of reproductive system problems and neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and autism.
"If we look at the rate of carbon emissions, most is emitted by the developed and industrialized countries, but the problem is poor countries like Bangladesh are the main sufferers."
Working with youth writers on a climate-fiction screenplay has opened my eyes to the power of the arts in confronting environmental crises.