Journalism

Acclimatizing to a new New York Times

Last week we learned that the New York Times was closing down its environment desk. We were planning to do a meaty post on this blog, but then Inside Climate News did this one.

With two editors and seven reporters dedicated exclusively to environmental coverage, the Times has long been home to the single largest environment staff of any daily U.S. newspaper. Its coverage has become even more important in recent years, because many struggling papers have slashed their reporting staffs, often relying on the Times as inspiration for the stories they do cover.

If the Times' coverage falters, more pressure would be placed on other national media — including the Associated Press and National Public Radio — to fill the gap, as well as Bloomberg and Reuters, which report on climate primarily for financial audiences, and environmental magazines and specialized websites.

Once the Times' environmental desk is dismantled, the nation's top five newspapers by readership — the Times, the Los Angeles TimesThe Washington PostUSA Today and the Wall Street Journal — will have about a dozen reporters and a handful of editors among them whose primary responsibility is to cover the environment. The New York Times has yet to reassign its reporters so a precise tally is not possible.

The Los Angeles Times will be the only one among the five to have a designated environment desk.

Read the full post here.

Grist points out while that the Times has been a source of good environment coverage for years before they had an environment “pod,” there's always room for more:

Part of the (justifiable!) hand-wringing over the move stems from the poor reporting of climate issues elsewhere. Earlier this week, a study revealed that the number of newspapers that maintain a weekly “Science” section dropped from 95 in 1989 to 14 currently. (The Times is one of the 14.) Television news continues to give climate coverage short shrift, especially in the context of policy and politics. With public opinion suggesting that Americans link the threat of global warming with information about its effects, it's understandably disconcerting to think that one of the most vocal outlets on the subject is changing its approach.

The New York Times' Public Editor Margaret Sullivan is aware of the message it sends: “Symbolically, this is bad news. And symbolism matters — it shows a commitment and an intensity of interest in a crucially important topic.” But though maintaining coverage will be challenging, it “doesn't have to be bad news,” she writes.

But as The Daily Climate's Peter Dykstra, a 17-year veteran at covering the environment, science, and technology for CNN, where the environment desk was similarly shut down, told ThinkProgress, “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.” And in the current scary climate for journalism, with layoffs as plentiful as flu cases this winter, taking away a potential avenue for career progress could have a powerful, silencing impact on the stories in our daily paper.

About the reporter

Jayati Vora

Jayati Vora

Jayati Vora is managing editor at The Investigative Fund. Previously, she was features editor for Al Jazeera America, and during her time there led numerous longform and investigative projects.