The newspaper of record is going even darker on green.
Two months after deleting its environment desk—eradicating its two environment editor positions and reassigning those editors and seven reporters—The New York Times announced late last Friday, March 1, that it was closing up shop on its venerable green blog.
“This change will allow us to direct production resources to other online projects,” read a statement on the blog. “But we will forge ahead with our aggressive reporting on environmental and energy topics, including climate change, land use, threatened ecosystems, government policy, the fossil fuel industries, the growing renewables sector and consumer choices.”
Those in the journo and eco-intelligentsia aren’t exactly buying the Times’ decision.
Curtis Brainard of the Columbia Journalism Review took the Times to task, calling the choice “terrible news,” before later adding that the masthead editors “should be ashamed of themselves.”
And then there was the painful, if even a touch bitter, farewell from the Times’ own Andy Revkin, who will get to keep his gig running Dot Earth, one of the finest eco-blogs in the business (it’s classified under ‘Opinion’).
“The news side of The Times 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,” he wrote. “I would like to have thought there was space for the environment in that mix.”
Make no mistake, each and every Revkin word in the above paragraph was typed to strike like a precise dart.
The decision is even more perplexing given that in 2012 the Times “published the most stories on climate change and had the biggest increase in coverage among the five largest U.S. daily papers, according to media trackers at the University of Colorado.”
See the problem, cover the problem, turn your back on the problem.
Now, now—I know what you’re thinking. The Times didn’t really eliminate its online environment coverage, so much as it incorporated it into existing sections. Environmental policy news will now be covered on the Caucus blog, while energy technology news is moving over to the Bits blog.
But let’s face facts, folks. The dissolution of a nerve center that was home to 5,364 articles since 2009 means that a great deal of high-quality eco-stories will no longer have a landing spot.
The corner offices at the Grey Lady can write all they want about how they’ll continue to “aggressively” cover climate change, but they couldn’t have cherry-picked a worse time to pull this plug.
No matter the prisms through which it’s seen—moral, financial, or ecological—climate change is the single gravest issue of our time.
If you believe the argument—as I absolutely do—that we possess the requisite tools to stop global warming in its tracks, but that we’re simply lacking the political chutzpah to do so, then Friday, March 1, 2013 will go down as a sad day in the annals of the fight to put a cork in the anti-science megaphones of climate change deniers.
Throughout the history of America's fledgling experiment in democracy, the only tried and true way that recalcitrant politicians have ever been moved off their perches of obstinence—be it on segregation or gay rights—was when an informed and energized electorate compelled them to do so.
Key word being informed.