InvestigateWest Copenhagen climate-treaty coverage points up need for independent journalism

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Whew! Fifty-one posts -- all but three in just the last two weeks. Dateline Earth readers got to hear from an Arctic tribal elder, an Indian-turned-American nature photographer, Ethiopian political activists, native-rights campaigners from the Amazon and the grassy plains of Ecuador – as well as the European and American officials who dominate this country’s news diet.
rm iwest mugWe stretched. The InvestigateWest team’s coverage of the global climate treaty negotiations that just wrapped up in Copenhagen was a mammoth undertaking for our small start-up news agency – but one that amply demonstrated the need for independent journalism. It was an effort worth every bleary-eyed late-night hour, every marathon Skype session, every up-before-December’s-dawn morning.

It’s unlikely InvestigateWest will be dashing off to a lot of international meetings. We were fortunate in this case to have the assistance of four able young journalists who raised the funds to get themselves to Denmark. Then they went on to deliver journalism that wasn’t available from many – and in a few cases, any – of the thousands of other journalists who covered the talks.

They did this despite being denied access to the conference center where international delegates were meeting until the last day of the two-week conference.  

[caption id="attachment_7653" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="InvestigateWest photographer Christopher Crow is arrested for the second time. He was held for 10 hours. InvestigateWest photo by Mark Malijan."]InvestigateWest photographer Christopher Crow is arrested for the second time. He was held for 10 hours. InvestigateWest photo by Mark Malijan.[/caption]

They did this despite one team member being arrested and detained by Danish police – twice – simply for doing his job and covering civil unrest the talks spawned in Copenhagen’s streets.

They persevered. Alexander Kelly, his brother Blair Kelly, Christopher Crow and Mark Malijan – all in their 20s – slogged through two weeks that tired out even me, a veteran who’s covered plenty of environmental conferences and several riots, and who was sitting in the editor’s chair here in Seattle. I know: They worked their tails off.

I’m particularly proud that we were on top of the street protests, ours being a journalism studio based in Seattle, where the protest tactics on display in Copenhagen first hit the world stage with the World Trade Organization riots ten years ago this month.

We also brought home stories that seemingly went uncovered by others. I tried to keep up on Google News, which is not a surefire method, but I saw no other stories on native-rights activists' charges that an often-praised timber deal smacks of colonialism; or on how the lead negotiator for the African Union, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, stands accused of genocide. (Matter of fact, I was floored by the allegations against this supposed American ally in the war on terror. I tend to read the newspaper pretty thoroughly; why haven’t we heard more about this in the past?)

Being based in Seattle, we also made it a point to snag interviews with people from the Pacific Northwest. They included Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, both of whom have made their mark on this all-important push to rein in global warming.

And I helped a little by covering the release of a battery of scientific studies outlining the potential for sudden and cataclysmic climate change -- plus ideas on how to avoid it. The PR person for the scientists involved told me no one else had covered the studies.

Dateline Earth, one of three InvestigateWest blogs, will continue to place a heavy emphasis on covering climate change. Look for a post tomorrow advertising what we’ll have coming early in the new year.

Folks, if you’re read this far, it's plain that you can see the value of our work. Remember that it’s the time of year that non-profits come to you with their palms outstretched. InvestigateWest is no different. We’re a struggling start-up non-profit dedicated to preserving and modernizing investigative and other in-depth journalism on the environment, public health and social-justice issues in western North America. We’re putting particular emphasis on the Pacific Northwest Cascadia, where those issues resonate strongly.

Please support our work – financially, yes, for sure. You can donate here. Then, after you’re done with that, please tune in here on a regular basis. We want your ideas, your creativity, your energy. And we’re working on ways to involve citizen journalists in our work. So get in touch, particularly if you live in the West and would like to help. E-mail me at rmcclure (at) or Executive Director Rita Hibbard at rhibbard (at)

 We are looking to build a community around these issues and this special region. Please become a part of the InvestigateWest community.

 Happy holidays.

 -- Robert McClure


@ Mr. McClure (nicely written!) - The 4 young men did remarkable reporting, just as you say, and among other things I'd like to see their personal views of what they experienced and observed posted here - and I hope, for all of our sakes, they continue working with IW and keep you up many more nights.