Journalism

After Years of Decline, Environmental Visibility in the News On the Rise*

*But still pretty darn low

As Earth Day approaches, it seems some news organizations have heard the call for coverage of environmental stories more than once a year. After four years of decreasing coverage, stories mentioning environmental issues are up 17% from 2013 to 2014 according to a new study by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage. See the full report at http://environmentalcoverage.org/trends.

It is encouraging to see that the two media platforms with the broadest reach, network TV news and national newspapers, saw the greatest increase over the five year period. Network TV news saw an increase nearing 50%. Though they’ve seen some of the most gains, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Environmental stories make up less than 1%[1] of headlines and receive far less visibility than many trivial issues. While celebrities and entertainment are a key part of American culture, it is hard to argue that Beyoncé warrants 92 times more mentions than deforestation on network TV news programs, given the important role forests play as our planet’s lungs and that many millions of people and species depend on them.

Other Key Findings

  • In 2014, international newspapers included in the study had a level of environmental topic visibility that was 81% higher than U.S. newspapers analyzed.
  • Six of the ten broad environmental topics tracked were less visible than just one celebrity, Beyoncé Knowles.
  • The broad topic of Ocean Health, which ranked as just slightly less important than Climate Change by environmental experts, was mentioned in less than 1/16th the number of stories that mentioned climate change.
  • CBS news mentioned the environmental issues tracked nearly 150% more in 2014 than it did in 2010.

“There is a real opportunity for the industry here. The environment intersects with a number of other issue areas people care a great deal about, like health, the economy and national security to name a few,” says Todd Pollak, Co-Director of the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage. “And we know Americans want more. An Opinion Research Corporation survey found 79% of Americans want improved environmental coverage in the news.” The younger generation, coveted by advertisers, is even more concerned about the environment[2].

The news media is a primary source of public information about the environment and while many newsrooms are eliminating environmental reporters and editors, there are some bright spots. A range of innovative and legacy news organizations from the Washington Post and the Guardian to the Huffington Post and Vox are ahead of the pack in prioritizing environmental reporting. And there are a range of topic-focused institutions like Environmental Health News, Inside Climate News and the Center for Public Integrity, many of which are partnering with legacy news organizations to expand their reach. New models continue to be explored and academic programs and nonprofit programs continue to develop new resources to assist environmental reporters. With more resources to support strong environmental coverage than ever before, and numerous examples of leadership in environmental coverage, the opportunities are clear for innovation in the industry and increased visibility of this critically important topic.

Watch industry leaders discuss the need and opportunity for improved environmental coverage.

[1] Project for Improved Environmental Coverage Ranking Report: http://environmentalcoverage.org/ranking/
[2] http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/millennials-environment-climate-change

About the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage: The Project for Improved Environmental Coverage (PIEC) is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to improving environmental news coverage in the U.S. For more visit:

Contact: Todd Pollak: todd@seeinnovation.org, 734-418-2919  //  Kelly Spitzner: Kelly@seeinnovation.org, 952-223-3364

How Much Water Do You Use? Help ProPublica Investigate Water Use in the U.S.

Thirty-one states have water supplies dipping below normal. Droughts have formally been declared in 22 of them. How we use water has never been more important, especially in the American Southwest, where drought conditions are the most severe in a generation — and could last another 1,000 years.

The vast majority of the water we use goes toward generating power (41 percent) and nourishing agriculture (37 percent). But one in 12 gallons of water is consumed at home.

That’s a small but critically important slice of the water used to make the nation tick. And it’s a slice that every single person in the United States can directly control.

As part of a two-year project examining America’s water crisis, ProPublica is teaming up with CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism to gather data on how Americans use and consume water at home. We’d like to know what you use. Grab your water bill. Complete the ProPublica survey. We’ll tell you how you stack up to your neighbors.

John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism

The John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, which carries a $5,000 prize and plaque, is given annually for news reporting that makes an exceptional contribution to the public’s understanding of environmental issues. The award was founded in 1993 by Oakes’ family, friends and colleagues. It recognizes journalists whose work meets the highest standards of journalistic excellence, and it is presented in the fall at Columbia Journalism School.

SEJ Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment

The SEJ awards honor the best environmental journalism in seven categories: two Kevin Carmody Investigative categories, two Beat categories, a Feature Story category, a Rachel Carson Book award, and a category for Outstanding Photojournalism. $500 is offered for first-place winners in each of the categories.

Applications due April 1.

LA Times seeks National Energy and Environment Writer

The Los Angeles Times is looking for an accomplished writer to explore energy and environment in the West. The future of the western landscape and the scope and consequences of America’s growing energy independence are among the most important issues affecting the future of our region, and they are being decided now.

This reporter should have a strong familiarity with public lands policy, environmental regulation, energy development and water resource allocation, as well as with the complicated politics and economics that drive decision-making on these often-combative issues. The successful candidate will be able to dig deeply and write memorably on topics that are often dismissed as important but arcane. Strong digital skills are essential.

This is a job for an energetic reporter who wants to lead the pack in breaking important news, but who also has the resourcefulness to pursue investigations, and the style to craft profiles and narratives that will help shape the public debate. This is an opportunity and a challenge to do distinguished work.

This position is funded with a grant from the Society of Environmental Journalists’ Fund for Environmental Journalism, and will most likely be based in Denver.

Interested candidates should contact Kim Murphy, assistant managing editor for foreign and national news. Kim.murphy@latimes.com.

The Grist Fellowship Program

Contact: fellowships@grist.org. No phone calls, please and thank you.

Want to grow as a journalist while absorbing a universe of green knowledge? Apply for the Grist Fellowship Program. We are an independent nonprofit media organization that shapes the country’s environmental conversations, making green second nature for our monthly audience of 2,000,000 and growing. At Grist, green isn’t about hugging trees or hiking — it’s about using humor and real talk to connect big issues like climate change to the places where people live, work, and play.

What is the Grist Fellowship Program?
The Grist Fellowship Program is an opportunity to hone your skills at a national news outlet and deepen your knowledge of environmental issues. We’re looking for early-career journalists with a variety of skills, from traditional reporting to multimedia whizbangery. We will offer exposure to the leading sustainability thinkers and theories of our time, real-world experience at a fast-paced news site, and the occasional office chili cook-off.

What is expected of the fellows?
Fellows will work full-time, making daily contributions to Grist’s editorial operations including (but not limited to) research, reporting, story ideas, writing, and multimedia experiments. Working closely with the fellowship program manager, each fellow will also identify a long-term special project to produce in collaboration with others on the team. We will encourage full participation in staff discussions and meetings, seek input on issues large and small, and laugh politely (or heartily, depending on the circumstances) at all your jokes.

What are the details?
Fellows work out of Grist’s Seattle office. Fellows must make a six-month commitment. The fellowship pays $2,250 per month. In special cases the fellowship will be renewable once by mutual agreement between the fellow and Grist. Renewal candidates will be considered alongside the applicant pool for the next fellowship cycle.

Who should apply?
Any curious, self-motivated, hard-working individual who wants to grow as a storyteller. We are looking for writers, reporters, and editors, as well as all-stars in fields such as video, audio, and data visualization. Our primary subject areas are climate and energy, food, cities, science and technology, pop culture, and environmental justice. Candidates are most likely college or j-school grads, with some experience in journalism.

Where do I apply?
www.grist.org/fellowships

For fellowships that begin July/August 2015, please submit applications by March 30, 2015.

Grist is an equal-opportunity employer.

Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship

Application deadline: May 1, 2015
For more information, visit http://www.whoi.edu/osj/

WHOI Ocean Science Journalism Fellowships were established in 2000. The next program will be held from September 13-18, 2015. The OSJ program is designed to introduce science journalists to the interdisciplinary and wide-ranging fields of oceanography and ocean engineering.

Through seminars, laboratory visits, and brief field expeditions, Ocean Science Journalism Fellows gain access to new research findings and to fundamental background information in engineering, marine biology, geology and geophysics, marine chemistry and geochemistry, and physical oceanography. Topics range from harmful algal blooms to deep-sea hydrothermal vents; from seafloor earthquakes to ice-sheet dynamics; from the ocean’s role in climate change to the human impact on fisheries and coastline change; from ocean instruments and observatories to underwater robots.

Our program is a one-week, residential experience open to professional writers, producers, and editors working for print, broadcast, radio, and Internet media. The ideal candidate will have at least two years of writing, producing, or editing experience for a general-interest audience. Freelancers, book authors, and writers from nontraditional media may also be considered, but should be able to show a substantial portfolio of work.

All fellows receive a travel allowance, as well as room and board for one week. International journalists are welcome to apply.

Application Information
We are now accepting applications. All applications and supporting materials must arrive by mail no later than May 1, 2015. Applicants are encouraged to apply early!

Please note that you still need to mail hard copies of writing samples after you complete the online application form.