Journalists covering the annual summit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Mexico in 2010. Photo: UNFCCC / flickrBy Katherine Bagley
17 January 2013

(InsideClimate News) – The news last week that the New York Times is dismantling its environment desk and reassigning the reporters throughout the newsroom provoked an outpouring of reaction, much of it suggesting that now isn't the time to take risks that could diminish the coverage of climate change.

In October, Hurricane Sandy brought home the reality of climate dangers to many Americans, and a recently released draft of the government's latest climate assessment predicts far worse to come. Temperatures could rise by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century, threatening "Americans' health and livelihoods and the ecosystems that sustain us," said the report, which was prepared by 240 scientists.  

Climate change "is not just the biggest crisis ever, it's the biggest story ever," said Bill McKibben, founder of the climate advocacy organization 350.org and one of several journalists and climate experts contacted by InsideClimate News.

Michael Mann, a climatologist who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said specialized, experienced environment editors and reporters are essential to navigate the escalating politics and complicated science of climate change. "Without properly trained science journalists to serve as honest brokers … the public is increasingly ill-equipped to sift through the cacophony of anti-scientific propaganda that pervades the public discourse and to identify the emerging threats to our health and our environment," Mann said. 

With two editors and seven reporters dedicated exclusively to environmental coverage, the Times has long been home to the single largest environment staff of any daily U.S. newspaper. Its coverage has become even more important in recent years, because many struggling papers have slashed their reporting staffs, often relying on the Times as inspiration for the stories they do cover. [more]

Fewer Than 10 Environment Reporters Left at Top 5 U.S. Papers

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