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Rumors were true: Revkin to leave NY Times Monday

By Joe Romm  

"Rumors were true: Revkin to leave NY Times Monday"

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What do you think his legacy is?

As I noted last week, “Revkin rumored to be considering bolting from NY Times.” Now it’s official.   The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media reports today:

Andy Revkin’s Last Day at NY Times: December 21
Science writer Andrew C. Revkin, the individual journalist most identified with reporting on climate change, is leaving The New York Times. His last day will be December 21, and he will affiliate with Pace University. He is expected to continue working on his popular Dotearth blog through The Times, though details are still being arranged.

Revkin’s move has been in the works for some time, and he says he decided some two years ago – after writing a “next 20 years” personal memorandum about his career plans – that he would leave journalism. He cites frustration with journalism and also personal fatigue after routinely working virtually 24/7 in recent years.

Comments welcome.

To me, he leaves a mixed legacy — as these ClimateProgress posts demonstrate:

Yes, I mostly focus on what I perceive to be the bad reporting.   Here’s a good piece I’ve used many times as an example of how to take about the link between climate change and extreme weather:

‹ Faces of Climate Change: Women on the Front Lines

Gorbachev: “The latest scientific research on climate change is extremely disturbing. We have a real emergency.” ›

34 Responses to Rumors were true: Revkin to leave NY Times Monday

  1. Dan says:

    I’ve always liked reading DotEarth. More generally, I think Andy had his heart in the right place, but he got caught up in the tendency for “balance,” drama and tit-for-tat that plagues print journalism. Of course, this is why the blogopshere shows so much promise for “niche” journalism.

  2. Chris Dudley says:

    My thesis adviser stopped publishing after I found an error in one of his papers. The feeling that one is not doing one’s best can be very frustrating. Still, I subscribed to the NYTs for years in part because of the science reporting and Andy has been and continues to be a big part of why their reporting is better than most. Andy’s efforts, even when hampered by too much pressure, are better than most so it will be a loss not to have his science reporting.

    While there have been errors recently and even an uncharacteristic unwillingness to acknowledge error very recently, what I have noticed most is a draining of wonder from some of Andy’s writing. Science is cool and the biggest perk of reporting on it is bringing the “Wow” experience to readers. A new direction may be just the thing.

  3. Al says:

    Call me picky, but I thought that you, as a physicist, would never write the meaningless 24/7. 24 hr/day divided by 7 day/wk = 24/7 of what? (What sort of unit is hour x week / day squared?) On the other hand, 24×7 means 24 hr/day x 7 day/wk = 24 x 7 hours/week, which is what you’re trying to convey.

    [JR: Uhh, that wasn't me. It was Yale. Still, it's a pretty common format.]

  4. Lou Grinzo says:

    Chris: Nicely put. Your comments reflect my feelings, for the most part. My biggest concern is what comes next–will we see even more accommodation (i.e. Revkin was holding the fort as best he could against that cancer of journalism), no real change, or reinvigorated science and CC coverage?

    Al: If a slash only meant “division” in prose (as opposed to equations), then you would have a point. But it doesn’t, so you don’t.

  5. Col says:

    Shoot a video interview with him and yourself and put it up on CP.

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    Hopeful?!

    In a fairly small gathering, I once saw Maya Angelou give an amazing talk, in which she discussed, among other things, the fact that we are each the authors of our own lives.

    I’ve never seen so many grown and “seasoned” executives moved to tears.

    Why do I mention this? Because …

    Andy (and I wish him all the best!) will now have a wonderful and rare chance — to author the next phase of his own life and work, without the systems and shackles and editors and invented journalistic machinations of The New York Times. He can examine the whole thing with a fresh mind, and consider the highest aims of journalism itself, and how well they are being met, and how they need to be met much better.

    Other than having personal friendships, I hope he’s not at all constrained by any allegiance to The Times or to any unexamined buy-in to some conventional journalistic paradigms that are simply (and clearly) not “up to the task” of helping society effectively address some of the modern problems we face, including that of climate change. Indeed, in my view, the best he can do for humankind, AND for journalism, AND for his own positive mark on the world (in my view), AND for other species, would be to remind journalism of its supposed aim to genuinely serve the public good — effectively — and to shine penetrating light on all those things that should be improved. Give journalism and the news media a productive (and big!) kick in the butt to get their acts together — and also show them HOW — when it comes to covering such immensely important matters.

    Andy has a rare opportunity — and I’m glad he has rid himself of The Times. He can author his own future. In my view, I’m hoping that he looks to folks like Thomas Jefferson, Edward R. Murrow, Maya Angelou, and etc. as inspirations rather than to folks like (for example) Bill Keller. I hope he sets his sights on a “high star” in terms of what he can do for humankind, and not be inspired by anything less.

    Good luck, Andy!

    Oh, and, I’ll quote Leonardo da Vinci and Dylan Thomas on this one:

    “When fortune comes, seize her firmly by the forelock, for I tell you, she is bald at the back.”

    - Leonardo da Vinci

    “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

    - Dylan Thomas

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  7. David Lewis says:

    The last time I heard Andy interviewed was on NYT “Science Times” podcast December 7. He actually stated that “the world is clearly warming, and even skeptics acknowledge that.”

    Andy summed up who he thought his audience at Dot Earth was at the ceremony where he received the John Chancellor award. There are “deniers” he said, who show up daily on Dot Earth along with “catastrophists”. Somehow, he said “the deniers” and the “catastrophists” “kind of hash it out, and overall, there’s a sense of trajectory, and that leads to a sense of hope”.

    I was transcribing this in somewhat stunned disbelief. Deniers are the type of people who would sum up the last thirty years of intense research by pronouncing that anyone who is not certain that the planet is cooling is part of a conspiracy. Catastrophists would, I suppose, be the type I first became acquainted with at the Toronto Changing Atmosphere conference in 1988 where 400 high level delegates from more than 40 countries all signed on to a statement intended for heads of state saying the consequences of global warming could only be exceeded by global nuclear war.

    The truth isn’t going to be found somewhere in between these two extremes. I used to believe Andy understood that.

    Jim Hansen complained to Andy: “It does seem to me that you now go out of your way to make a “fair and balanced” summary of everything that I write, which is why I hesitate to send you things these days. Sometimes there are actually conclusions worth reporting without denigrating them down to speculations disputed by other experts.”

    Epitaph in progress dept: Here lies a once great reporter, who in middle age became prone to attacks of gibberish peddling, who left print to concentrate on blogging?

    When they handed him the Chancellor award, I think it was Brokah who said “John Chancellor dispelled lies and ignorance for the first time in the new age of TV”. Another grand speech cited Andy because “you respect different sides of this polarizing issue”, supposedly by “sticking to the facts”.

    Like that whopper about deniers believe the world is “clearly warming” I started this post with, I guess….

    When is it going to be taken to be the job of science reporters, to “dispel lies and ignorance”, as John Chancellor was said to do, as opposed to showing respect to those who perpetrate them?

  8. ken levenson says:

    It is hard to imagine a more squandered megaphone than Andy’s these past two years….He should have quit when he wrote the memo….I wish Andy the best – reporting on something far away from climate change.

    Looking forward it would be great to see someone like Elisabeth Rosenthal step into Andy’s beat. She has a great A1 story in today’s paper “In Bolivia, Water and Ice Tell of Climate Change”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/science/earth/14bolivia.html?hp

    It’s like real reporting! Go Elisabeth!

  9. SecularAnimist says:

    The New York Times will almost certainly replace Andy Revkin with someone much worse, by which I mean, someone who understands that the NYT’s mission is not to impartially inform and educate its readers as a public service, but rather to propagandize its readers in furtherance of profits and the corporate aristocracy’s political agenda, and who will write accordingly — even more so than Revkin has recently been doing.

  10. Dano says:

    What Animist said.

    Best,

    D

  11. Marion Delgado says:

    A mixed legacy, but I’ll miss him, possibly because I assume the NYT will not replace dot earth when it expires with anything even as good.

  12. mike roddy says:

    We’ll miss him, and I second Secular Animist, too. The New York Times is the problem, since they have become a frightened shadow of their former self.

    According to Joe, he will resign from being a print reporter but continue on Dot Earth. If this is the case, let’s hope that this frees him to state his own opinions- and slap down the many lunatics who continue to comment there.

    I like Rosenthal too, but the Times really should get rid of John Tierney. As Joe has said, he’s the worst in the country, and would compensate for the mixed feelings- including loss- that we’ll feel about Andy’s departure.

  13. Jim Bouldin says:

    Excellent post Jeff (6)–I needn’t repeat.

  14. Jason says:

    I’ve got to hand some credit to NYT. They were the factor most responsible for dragging me from denier camp into a true believer in the seriousness of our situation. Granted, it wasn’t Revkin so much, but they aren’t the complete sell outs that they sometimes appear. Their editorial staff is particular good on this topic.

  15. Kerri Woodberg says:

    The NYT is bleeding. Their advertising revenues are down near 30% this year. I suspect like I have seen for 30 years people leave companies for good job offers when they observe their own employer is nearly insolvent and bleeding. Employment security is still in peoples minds.

  16. Al says:

    Can I retract the last part of my last email and replace it by this (and hope I don’t get flamed too severely)? I was even more confused than I realized. To me “/” in this context means “by”. This in turn, means “divided by” but in the context, we want “multiplied by”, i.e. “x”.

  17. Leif says:

    The Elisabeth Rosenthal report on the FRONT page of the NY times was a sight to behold. Perhaps our letters are in fact having an effect. The very first thing upon seeing this I sat down and e-mailed a “thank you” note. I can only imagine where the national awareness would be had the NY Times been reporting like this years ago. So with mixed emotions, a big thank you and for shame, New York Times.

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    Revkin’s legacy?

    Compromised always by NYT’s advertising needs, worsening at the end, but not nearly so bad as those of Rupert Murdoch, Limbaugh, McIntyre, G. WIll, or Exxon.

    I share the sentiment that Revkin’s coverage will improve while the NYT’s will worsen after the split, and will watch both.

  19. Andrew Revkin’s name first penetrated my consciousness when I read his series on the Arctic. I wish he’d had the honor and good sense to leave a year ago instead of writing some of the things he’s written in the past year.

    I, too, was shocked by his opinion that there were two camps — the deniers and the catastrophists. He also made it clear that he didn’t believe his writings would matter one way or the other. Why then be a journalist?

    The New York Times does have some good science writers, when they are permitted to be so. I don’t think that there will be a problem in replacing Andy. But what remains to be seen is whether the NYT will continue down the same road they’ve been on the last 18 months.

    But, another question I have is: Will it matter what happens to the New York Times?

    Will we soon all get our news from online papers and blogs? Aren’t we doing this already? What is the future of journalism?

    Take care, Andy, and I wish you all the best.

  20. David B. Benson says:

    Wise of Andy Revkin to depart as the great ship TNYT sinks slowly beneath the waves of change…

  21. Nightmare: Revkin’s climate change reporting assigned to
    John Tierney!

  22. Here’s to hoping that, moving forward in his new and rewarding endeavors, Andy can contribute to a cure for our debilitating syndrome of false-balance in reporting. Terribly needed. Seems like the J-schools could help.

  23. Richard Brenne says:

    Andy, I’d like clarification. Do the “Catastrophists” include James Hansen, James Lovelock, Stephen Schneider, Kevin Trenberth, Susan Solomon, Al Gore, Bill McKibben and Joe Romm?

    Because those are the climate change scientists and communicators I respect most. Equating them with deniers seems silly, pointless and imbalance masquerading as balance.

    Also, like the others who are best at understanding environmental challenges deeply and over long periods of time – including Paul Ehrlich and Al Gore and most climate scientists and environmentalists – you need to understand resource depletion infinitely more than you do to arrive at a proper equation.

    Fresh water expert Diane McKnight has said on my panels that she does not feel we have the water infrastructure to grow the population much beyond what it is now, let alone to the 9 billion that is in DotEarth’s tagline.

    Al Gore and others want electric cars, but there are almost a billion internal combustion engine vehicles in the world. Is there enough lithium (which is also highly toxic) or substitutes to allow almost a billion electric vehicles? Most of the world’s lithium is in Bolivia and is spoken for by the Chinese.

    This is the full-cost accounting of incredibly complex issues you and others like you need to do. When you’ve been at the top of your game, you’ve shown the potential to be one of the best at this full-cost accounting.

    McKibben and I hate heat and love cold. You’re much the opposite. Has that influenced your outlook?

    When you got the science right, thank you for all your hard work and that reporting,

    Richard Brenne

  24. Leif says:

    Well said Richard, # 22: To your list of “Catastrophists” I would like to add Lester Brown of the World Watch Institute. I would also like to give a “shout out” to what appears to me to be very promising technology that is well along in development. (I am not affiliated with them and have no financial interests.) The company is Cyclone Power Technologies and they have produced a closed circuit steam engine. Lots of innovative features and a very informative web site. External combustion on almost any fuel. Also waste heat engine on the same principle but lower input temperatures. Solar thermal. High efficiency, simple construction.

  25. I very much want to hear what Andy says in a year from now. Reflection and education can do wonders when removed from advertiser supported journalism. It so often appeared like he was overworked. A newspaper deadline is just training wheels for the climate deadline.

    Now he must deliver his voice, not the NYTime’s…

  26. rantman says:

    “Catastrophists” !

    Are you sure?? Methinks those who are most bleak and catastrophic would not even bother to speak up. Informed, silent, stoic acceptance bothers me much more than any vocal alarmism.

  27. dhogaza says:

    Moreover, Revkin has increasingly found himself—and his paper’s coverage—the target of critics on both the right and the left, particularly in the often vitriolic blogosphere. He described himself as “an advocate for scientific reality,” not for either side of the debate.

    Perhaps this explains why Andy’s coverage has gotten so sucky in the last year or so … he really seems to view the climate science side as being “left” and the skeptic side as being “right” and when viewed through a political lens, equally valid points of view.

    A true advocate for scientific reality would understand that there are not two sides of this so-called “debate”.

  28. Robert of ACT says:

    Correctly spoken Richard [22] as i reprint your succinct conclusion.

    “Because those are the climate change scientists and communicators I respect most. Equating them with deniers seems silly, pointless and imbalance masquerading as balance.”

    My best hopes and wishes for Andy and his move on to greater achievements. Maybe Andy will realize finally that balance can never be reached by just mixing the messages. Satisfying the factions is nothing more than a Journalistic exercise in feeding the readership but ignoring the mission of publishing truth. The public needs the written word to be a principled non-equivocating window of wisdom for we’ll not get a second chance to get it right. Inferring our Science leaders as “Catastrophists” is a stretch. I can’t imagine being the person who originated that sclerosis labled on those who stand up to speak truth as is founded in Science. For sure ‘Romm’ is burning!

  29. Dan B says:

    Alas poor Andy.

    He lived for balance.

    Isn’t balance lovely.

    Then his daughter fell off the log into the rising waters of the hurricane.

    Then his nephew’s sustainable farm went three years without rain.

    The banks took the farm, for pennies on the dollars his nephew had invested.

    Then the ghosts of the Pulitzers visited him after midnight.

    “We were wrong. We were so wrong. We funded all those schools of Journalism based upon balance. Save yourself. Follow truth, not balance. When it is the way. Follow balance when it is the truth.”

    But it was too late, or … is it?

    My fractured fairy tale has many endings – happy, sad, or balanced.

    Which endings are truly happy? Or satisfying to the human spirit or human endeavor?

  30. Jeff Huggins says:

    To Dan B (Comment 30)

    That way of putting it … i.e., to generally follow truth, not “balance”; and thus to follow balance only when balance IS the truth and when the more accurate truth can’t be discerned … is very interesting.

    As one who likes quotes and sources (from scientists, philosophers, historic leaders, poets, or etc.), may I ask: Do you know of a source for, or a great quote illustrating, that notion?

    In any case, thanks for that thought.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  31. Robert of ACT says:

    Jeff this attempt at rhyme may not fill the Balance theme but just maybe it will strike an accord with Truth.

    Truth, the first casualty
    of logic spent,
    shows man’s nature
    can be devious bent!

    Global Warming,
    seas are storming,
    skeptic’s spinning
    and our world’s not winning!

    They attack the science
    or spin the bias
    but motives show
    through want of lies.

    They attack the messenger
    if they can’t twist the truth.
    What’s within their minds
    needs support with proof!

    They claim, eyes that see
    and ears that hear
    yet a mind so closed,
    there’s much too fear!

    Change is slow
    as momentum grows,
    the helm must steer
    long before the ship will veer!

    Gaia’s hypothesis says
    life may … survive this rush,
    but the clincher is
    “not with us!”

  32. Robert says:

    ‘Reporten’ Science
    aint so hard;
    record discovery without adding
    the alchemy!

    Words not written, half truths said,
    spin it right, now go left.
    to seek balance not unlike
    a wobbly … gyrocompass!

    Speak to Truth,
    or be the Lobby
    what really maters is to sell
    more hardcopy!

    Polarize or popularizes
    Oh, what shall we do;
    speak the truth
    or spread lies!

    Push half truths
    plus all the spin.
    Now lean left
    and then back again!

    Confusion draws a crowd,
    watch sales rebound.
    Keep the pot hot,
    be the ‘spinin’ Top.

    Truth be dammed
    strike up the band.
    Seek middle ground
    and watch the sales rebound!

    What could be cheaper
    than to invite two speakers
    to whatch’em ‘duke it out’
    and hear the crowd shout!

    What’s your purpose
    where is your point
    if you increase sales
    and kill off the whales!

    The Crisis looms
    like no other.
    Have your way
    to an endless summer!

    Journalism’s high calling
    is to seek the source of light.
    Where’d you get the idea
    to go left and then right!

    For some it’s fun
    to push the spoof
    but most understand
    the Code of Truth!

  33. OK, after seeing Andy stick pins in the Chinese (and who does this benefit if not those wishing to delay any cooperation and agreement on reducing emissions?) in his latest Dot Earth post, written after his leaving the print edition, I will just come out and say that I am sick and tired of his stirring up controversy by acting as if he has misunderstood the latest publication (which he did at least 5 times in Dot Earth posts), which has caused scientists to reply to him by e-mails which he subsequently has posted on Dot Earth, and of course all of this has brought more traffic to his blog (said to be 300,000 hits per month — no wonder he wanted to hang on to it).

    It is one thing to poke needles unnecessarily into scientists and stir up a discussion for your blog, but it is quite another to do that needlessly to the Chinese. I can hardly think of a more irresponsible action.

    And Andy, since I know you read these comments, I will just come out and finally also say, “Would you stop already with the endless self-promoting?”

    It is so blatant, so frequent, so obvious, and so tacky!

    And, in case you have forgotten, college students often have excellent BS detectors, once they get the stars out of their eyes.