Columbia Journalism Review slams Times for “outright lie” about its commitment to environmental coverage.
This weekend two of the premier newspapers in the country basically abandoned the story of the century — climate change — as a specialized beat. The NY Times shut down its Green Blog (fast on the heels of dismantling its environment desk) and the Washingon Post is switching its lead climate reporter, Juliet Eilperin, off the environment beat.
These epic blunders in editorial judgment essentially signal the end of the era of great national newspapers — certainly neither the New York Times nor Washingon Post qualify anymore. One can hardly be a great national newspaper while moving to slash coverage of the single most important story to the nation (and the world), the story that will have the biggest impact on the lives of readers and their children in the coming decades.
And we can finally strip the NY Times of its vaunted title “The Paper of Record.” Now, like most others, it is just a “paper of record-keeping.”
Back in January, I reported that the Times was “Widely Cricitized For Dismantling Its Environment Desk, Eliminating Editorial Positions.” Now, to compound that mistake, the NY Times has terminated its Green Blog, with this abrupt post:
The Times is discontinuing the Green blog, which was created to track environmental and energy news and to foster lively discussion of developments in both areas. This change will allow us to direct production resources to other online projects. 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.
Thanks to all of our readers.
Since Sandy was a freak, once-in-a-century superstorm, we figure New York is safe for another century.
OK, I added the final sentence, but still this move is doubly head-exploding in a post-Sandy world where even the media elite now know they aren’t free from the ravages of climate change. And again, we’ve only seen the impact of slightly more than a degree Fahrenheit of warming — we’re all but certain to see at least 5 times as much warming this century as we did last century, especially if the ignorati (not-so-intelligentsia?) gag themselves on the greatest story never told.
Curtis Brainard, editor of Columbia Journalism Review‘s “online critique of science and environment reporting,” slammed the move:
This is terrible news, to say the least. When the Times announced in January that it was dismantling its three-year-old environment pod and reassigning its editors and reporters to other desks, managing editor Dean Baquet insisted that the outlet remained as committed as ever to covering the environment. Obviously, that was an outright lie.
The Green blog was a crucial platform for stories that didn’t fit into the print edition’s already shrunken news hole—which is a lot on the energy and environment beat—and it was a place where reporters could add valuable to context and information to pieces that did make the paper….
In an act of total cowardice, the Times clearly timed its announcement to avoid (for the weekend, at least) having to deal with what is sure to be widespread criticism. When I called the paper shortly after 5pm on Friday, I was informed that executive editor Jill Abramson, managing editor Dean Baquet, and corporate spokeswoman Eileen Murphy were all out of the office for the day….
Those masthead editors should be ashamed of themselves. They’ve made a horrible decision that ensures the deterioration of the Times’s environmental coverage at a time when debates about climate change, energy, natural resources, and sustainability have never been more important to public welfare, and they’ve done so while keeping their staff in the dark. Readers deserve an explanation, but I can’t think of a single one that would justify this folly.
The NY Times coverage of the environment has continued its journey from bad to worse. It continues to abrogate its responsibility to inform the public about critical issues.
Slate has terrific piece, “The Times Kills Its Environmental Blog To Focus on Horse Racing and Awards Shows,” which lists some of the “the 65-odd other Times blogs” (!) saved from the axe while the green blog was beheaded: