environmental journalism

How multimedia reporting can improve my environmental journalism (and yours, too!)

rm iwest mugWow. After a draining but fascinating week at the  Knight Digital Media Center's multimedia journalism boot camp, I'm itching to edit the video for what will be my second InvestigateWest piece.

And you, too, can benefit from the Knight Center's expertise -- whether you're a paid journalist or a citizen who is thinking about committing some journalism to right some wrongs. Much of what I learned, and more, is available on the center's website in the tutorials section. For me, this stuff should prove pivotal.

Our marathon learn-while-you-do sessions, lasting from 9 a.m. at least until 9 p.m. each day, allowed teams of journalists to produce actual multimedia stories. My team* was sent out to profile the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a non-profit formed by teachers to divert useable materials out of the waste stream. It not only helps teachers and artists find cheap stuff -- it also keeps landfills from filling up so fast.

Our multimedia piece features a video, an audio slideshow, a little game, information on the store and links to more resources on reuse.

 I'm grateful that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation saw fit to fund this intensive week of learning, which I'll be putting to practical use very soon.

We'll be back after a word (or several thousand) for our sponsor: In-depth journalism

rm iwest mugFolks, I said when I was starting what turned out to be just a tiny bit of time off over the holidays that Dateline Earth would return in early January. While I still hope that will be true -- early January technically runs through the 15th, right? -- it's going to be a little longer than I'd hoped.

The reason: I'm wrapping up an in-depth story. Remember those? This first major outing for me under the InvestigateWest banner promises to be eye-opening for those interested in environmental health. I need to concentrate on finishing the writing, fact-checking, and so forth.

Then I'll be back with posts about that story; about the topics I mentioned when exiting stage right around Christmas, including one idea about how to start the process of reversing global warming; and reflections from the Multimedia Reporting and Convergence Workshop next week at the University of California at Berkeley, sponsored by the Knight Digital Media Center and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. I was selected in a highly competitive process and look forward to the 12-hour days there because I'll learn a lot about multimedia methods to present our in-depth journalism.

Until then...

-- Robert McClure


2010 at Dateline Earth: Reversing global warming. Restoring ecosystems. And saving environmental journalism? Well, that's up to you . . .

rm iwest mugHow can we slow down global warming – or even take steps to reverse it?  

Where is ecosystem restoration taking off in a big way?

How is environmental journalism faring in the news media meltdown that spawned InvestigateWest?

We plan to delve into those questions and many more -- we're eager to explore the tradeoffs of "green" energy, for instance -- when Dateline Earth and the InvestigateWest team return after the holidays.

In the meantime, we’re taking time off. So you won’t see anything new in this space for a little while. (Unless we’re just dying to tell you about something. Sometimes we can’t contain ourselves.)

Readers, please come back in early January to see what we’re up to in the new year. That will include beginning to publish some full-blown in-depth stories by InvestigateWest staffers, as well as continuing to produce Dateline Earth and our other two blogs, Western Exposure and From the Field.

In the meantime, it's incredibly important that you donate to InvestigateWest. Become a member. Give us your ideas. Give us your energy. But first, give us a little bit of money. A membership costs just $5 a month. It's what has to happen to sustain the independent journalism so crucial to our self-governing democracy.  We’re trying to keep body and soul together while building this ambitious new project to preserve and modernize in-depth reporting on the environment, public health and social-justice issues in western North America.

Will it work? It’s up to you. As a body requires oxygen, we must have support from citizens who care about what’s happening in the society around them.

Independent journalists denied access to Copenhagen climate talks

COPENHAGEN -- Climate change has become the story of the decade and probably the century. So it’s no surprise that the global climate negotiations beginning here today are making the headlines of nearly every major news organization in the world. With thousands of journalists in attendance, the conference seemed at low risk of going underreported. Or so I imagined.

[caption id="attachment_6760" align="alignright" width="98" caption="Alexander Kelly"]Alexander Kelly[/caption]

Late last night, I stood in line to receive my press pass to cover the negotiations. I was glad to have access to the front lines of the climate debate and the resources to report it. Imagine, then, the surprise I felt upon arriving at the press desk only to learn that my accreditation had been rescinded. The reason given: the UN had accredited too many journalists.

Incredulous, I showed the UN official, a man in his mid-20s, a copy of the email I received from the UN press office just a few weeks earlier. It contained three simple words: “Received and approved,” followed by directions for collecting my press pass. The man behind the counter glanced at the paper and told me he would be back in a few moments. He returned with a simple message: We are very sorry, but our records show that you have been denied, and we cannot provide you accreditation at this time.

Excuse me? Really? I flew almost 5,000 miles from the Pacific Northwest to Copenhagen to be denied access to an event I have spent half a year preparing for? Standing next to me was our video journalist, Blair Kelly, who took the email from his hands and told him to get his supervisor.

[caption id="attachment_6758" align="alignleft" width="226" caption="On the outside looking in.

Should we be using composting toilets? Should NYT's "Toxic Waters" series on sewers, stormwater raise that question?

The latest installment of The New York Times' excellent "Toxic Waters" series has pushed me over the edge: I'm now firmly of the opinion these guys should win a Pulitzer.  

I've sung the praises of Charles Duhigg's reporting before, but he really got to the heart of the matter with this latest piece on sewage and stormwater.

It's been a while since I visited this topic, and in the meantime it seems the holy grail of related medical research has been found: research connecting the sloppy way our aging sewers are handling waste with actual human sickness. According to Duhigg:

A 2007 study published in the journal Pediatrics, focusing on one Milwaukee hospital, indicated that the number of children suffering from serious diarrhea rose whenever local sewers overflowed. Another study, published in 2008 in the Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, estimated that as many as four million people become sick each year in California from swimming in waters containing the kind of pollution often linked to untreated sewage.

I've written extensively about these problems in the Puget Sound region. Duhigg and the Times are taking it to the national level. And yet, Duhigg doesn't forget to detail how the guys at the local sewer plant in Brooklyn get antsy when it starts raining much, generating stormwater that overpowers sewers in the Big Apple:

They choose cable television packages for their homes based on which company offers the best local weather forecasts. They know meteorologists by the sound of their voices. When the leaves begin to fall each autumn, clogging sewer grates and pipes, Mr.

U.S.-China climate pact: Why so late? We try to ask Al Gore (with a little help from KUOW)

The news today on the climate front is a pretty big honkin' deal: President Obama, on a visit to China, signed an agreement with China calling for the United States to offer a proposal for near-term cuts in greenhouse gases. In return, China will say what it plans to do about not frying the planet to kingdom come.

(I know: It doesn't sound earth-shattering. But it's a big enough deal that it's currently topping Google News. You have to realize that China and America are No. 1 and No. 2 in the list of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.)

If you want more on today's developments, I recommend Jake Schmidt's piece over at grist.org.

But here at Dateline Earth, I can't help but ask: Why didn't the Clinton-Gore administration convince China to show such good faith? At the time of the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, even some members of the U.S. delegation to the climate talks knew that selling the deal to the U.S. Senate meant convincing senators it would spawn expanding alternative-energy industry that would make money for Americans.  (At least in part by selling the stuff to China.)

Yes, the global political and economic scene was different then. But it seems the idea that Americans might benefit to some degree had to be sold. And then an R&D rampup had to happen. But it wasn't. And it didn't.

In fact, I may actually get to ask Al Gore about this, courtesy of the good folks at KUOW, the public radio news-and-information station. Gore, the leader of the American delegation to the 1997 Kyoto talks, is appearing from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday on The Conversation with Ross Reynolds. (It's at 94.9* FM if you're here in Rain City.

Industry lobbyists torpedoed Copenhagen climate pact, eight-nation investigation by journalists shows

Following yesterday's news that there will be no global climate pact when international negotiators meet next month in Copenhagen, the Europeans today are saying it's all President Obama's fault.

But from where we sit -- and let's recall that Dateline Earth was a little grouchy at Obama early in his term about his less-than-laser focus on climate -- there's plenty of blame to go around.

Exhibit No. 1: The excellent report out today from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists outlining how industry lobbyists in eight pivotal countries torpedoed hopes for a climate treaty.

We heard about this from our friends at the Center for Public Integrity, which ran the effort to investigate the lobbying blitz.

Business journos jumping on the climate story

With the nations of the world preparing to say how much they are willing to do to combat climate change, it's heartening to see business journalists jumping on the story.

Two worthwhile and recent examples:

  • Today Marketplace launched a series called "The Climate Race," in which reporters Sam Eaton and Sarah Gardner ventured out from their desks in LA to find out how climate change is affecting Americans on the ground. Today's installment took us to Helena, Montana, where a beetle has devastated forests surrounding Montana's state capital. The beetles used to die off in the winter, but a few degrees' warming has made all the differrence. Today Helena is surrounded by hills ablaze in orange, red and gold. No, those aren't the gorgeous and welcome warm hues of autumn. These trees, you see, are evergreens. They turn those colors when they die.
  • The Wall Street Journal's Weekly Journal Report just featured "Five Technologies That Could Change Everything." Now, Marketplace's Eaton and Gardener are reporters on the program's sustainability desk, but I'm pretty sure the WSJ doesn't have one of those. And while the Marketplace piece was straight-ahead what-are-the-effects reporting, the WSJ was thinking -- as always -- about investors as editor Michael Totty examined space-based solar energy, advanced electric car batteries, renewable-energy storage, carbon capture and storage and next-generation biofuels. The piece features a basic rundown on where each of those technologies stands, enough to get investors' interest piqued. The graphics are pretty good, too.   

It would be a weclome sign to see more of our colleagues in the financial press pressing forward with reporting on the perils and opportunities presented by climate change.