Over the past several months, there have been several shifts in the way the NY Times covers climate issues. This is a result of restructuring due to budget constraints, and according to editors, a response to the “shifting interdisciplinary landscape of news reporting”.
2009: NYT creates a 9-person “environment pod”, made up of 2 editors and 7 reporters dedicated to reporting solely on environmental issues.
Fall 2012: Throughout the presidential election there was much discussion of the climate silence problem, as Obama and Romney carefully avoided any substantial discussion of climate change during the campaign.
December 2012: Executive editor Jill Abramson announces the need to cut 30 positions from the news division due to decreased ad revenues. Employees were offered buyouts, but Abramson would go to layoffs if there weren’t enough takers for the buyout packages.
January 11, 2013: Inside Climate News broke the story that NYT would be dismantling its environment desk. The environmental reporters and editors would be reassigned to other departments.
- "It wasn’t a decision we made lightly…coverage of the environment is what separates the New York Times from other papers. We devote a lot of resources to it, now more than ever. We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter," said Dean Baquet, managing editor for news operations.
Reactions: Journalists and environmentalists reacted with varying degrees of surprise, dismay and stoicism.
- Beth Parke, executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists, said that while solid environmental coverage doesn’t always require a dedicated team, the Times’ decision is “worrying.” (via)
- Award-winning journalist Peter Dykstra, publisher of Daily Climate: “When you abolish a standalone beat, it sends a strong message to every career-conscious reporter and editor that chasing environment stories is not a path to advancement.” (via)
- Andy Revkin, NYT Dot Earth blogger: “The Times excelled at environmental coverage before there was an environment pod, continued during that phase, and, I predict, will do so going forward, within the financial constraints facing all journalism.”
- Bora Zivkovic, blog editor at Scientific American: “There is potential for this to be a good thing. It all depends on the implementation. (…) All the environmental expertise is still at the Times, but now outside of its own ghetto, able to cross-fertilize with other beats, and to collaborate with reporters with other domains of expertise.” Interestingly, Zivkovic goes on to discuss the increased importance of the Green Blog, as a hub where all the NYT’s environmental reporting can be gathered and shared. His blog post is even titled Why the NYTimes “Green Blog” Is Now Essential.
March 1, 2013: The New York Times shuts down the Green Blog. It was announced in a brief post on the blog, stating “This change will allow us to direct production resources to other online projects. But we’ll forge ahead with our aggressive reporting on environmental and energy topics.”
Andy Revkin of Dot Earth created a Green Blog Voices list on Twitter, and NYT enviro coverage can now be followed on the Environment page.
Revkin goes on to point out that NYT has “nine sports blogs; nine spanning fashion, lifestyles, health, dining and the like; four business blogs; four technology blogs (five if you include automobiles as a technology); and a potpourri of other great efforts…” Somehow, all of those managed to stay and the Green Blog had to go.
Unlike the decision to dissolve the environment pod, the termination of the Green Blog was met with very negative reactions across the board. Curtis Brainard of the Columbia Journalism Review wrote “This is terrible news, to say the least.”
In my own opinion, NYT has been a leader on environmental coverage. NYT is my primary news source on a daily basis. Despite their broad coverage, I am reluctant to rely on blogs such as ThinkProgress and 350.org. The loss of the Green Blog is a step in the wrong direction.