Saving the Planet Without the NY Times Environment Desk: Is the Media Going to Ignore Climate Change?

By on Friday, January 18, 2013
Stories like this one on Jan. 11, 2013- showing snow in Jerusalem
– and discussion of global climate change in America’s top newspapers – are what activists are afraid of losing

With the New York Times announcement that it’s going to dis-mantle its environment desk, organizations and activists are worried that we might lose ink and attention on climate change and environmental issues   at a time when our nation could need it the most. 

The nine-person reporting team will be dispersed to other news desks, and according to InsideClimateNews, that will leave only a dozen reporters and a handful of editors at the top five newspapers working on the environment beat.

The New York Times upped its climate change coverage last year, publishing more than any other outlet, even though the volume of media coverage about climate change declined last year. Others have expressed concern about the NYT change, including:

Michael Mann, a climatologist who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said specialized, experienced environment editors and reporters are essential to navigate the escalating politics and complicated science of climate change. “Without properly trained science journalists to serve as honest brokers … the public is increasingly ill-equipped to sift through the cacophony of anti-scientific propaganda that pervades the public discourse and to identify the emerging threats to our health and our environment,” Mann said.

Should environmental activists and scientists be worried? The NY Times says it won’t change its commitment to environmental coverage and that the change is purely structural. I’m not so sure. I think the onus will be put on organizations and their public relations staffs to put more resources into explaining environmental stories and climate change to reporters. And more work will need to be put into pitching these important stories to other journalists too.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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