For the last 11 years, InsideClimate News has documented one crisis, and watched another one unfold.
The first is the climate crisis. InsideClimate's talented team of reporters has filled a critical gap in investigative climate journalism, from revealing the truth about the dangers associated with Canadian tar sands oil to Exxon’s multi-pronged effort to discredit climate science. Today, they write more than 500 climate and energy stories annually that break news, investigate and analyze.
The second crisis – far more silent, but just as profound – is the collapse of environmental journalism in the United States. Declining revenues for many newspapers has resulted in veteran environment reporters being laid off, and they’re not being replaced. Younger, inexperienced reporters can have enthusiasm to tackle environmental topics but may not be equipped to handle their complexities and the political controversies around climate change. Sometimes they are told to steer clear: One young Southeast reporter was recently urged by editors to avoid linking climate to severe weather in news reports because it was too controversial.
Nowhere is this hollowing out of reporting capacity more visible than in the nation’s interior, where climate change impacts are acutely being felt and clean energy solutions are taking root.
InsideClimate’s National Environment Reporting Network aims to change this. Last month, InsideClimate established the first of what will be at least four regional hubs. Based in the Southeast and staffed by former veteran Louisville Courier-Journal reporter James Bruggers, it will serve as a center for training local and regional journalists and collaborating with other newsrooms. Other regions where we will establish hubs include the Southwest, Great Plains and Great Lakes.
InsideClimate wants to revive and embolden environmental journalism so it can spark civic discussion where it is most needed – in the backyards and main streets of America. This is about creating a model for sustained local journalism, steeped in the public interest of the region.
It's a critical time for local climate and environment reporting. Federal rollbacks of carbon-reducing policies and other environmental protections are ongoing. As a result, many key energy and environment decisions are moving to states and local governments. Journalists are needed to translate those issues into a coherent narrative for the public.
While the firestorm over “fake news” and alternative facts consumes national media, millions of Americans still faithfully read their local papers and listen and watch local news. It is here where environmental journalism can make a lasting difference.
Looking ahead, InsideClimate wants to re-embed a culture of public service environmental journalism into newsrooms, as fundamental to readers as the crime blog or sports section. LDF is proud to support their work.