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11Jan 2013

New York Times dismantles environment desk, eliminates position of environment editor.

The New York Times is dismantling its environment desk and will assign its two editors and seven reporters to other departments, Katherine Bagley reports on InsideClimate News

Andrew Revkin, the author of the Dot Earth blog at the Times, said on his Facebook page that he thought the paper was making a mistake:

I was never [a] fan of [a] standalone environment desk even when I worked for it. Creates a ghetto for the subject and reporters. Environment is not a beat. Environmental impacts are a result of human decisions and actions. I do think it's a mistake, however, to end position of environment EDITOR. More than ever, the paper needs someone to track, coordinate and vet the environmental content coming through any desk...

InsideClimate News reports that the positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor are being eliminated, and that "no decision has been made about the fate of the Green blog, which is edited from the environment desk." Dean Baquet, the managing editor of the Times, said that when the desk was crated in 2009, environment coverage was seen as "singular and isolated," but now environment stories are "more complex. We need to have people working on the different desks that can cover different parts of the story."

It's hard to think of anything that has changed in the past three years to make environmental stories more complex. And environment stories have always had implications for other desks at the paper, even in 2009, when Baquet thought otherwise.

-Paul Raeburn



I also saw this one elsewhere:

"When the desk was created in early 2009, the environmental beat was largely seen as "singular and isolated..."

This amazed me. The magazine I worked on, New Scientist, was writing about the "environment crisis" in the 1970s.

The USA effectively "invented" the environment – Rachel Carson et al. – so maybe this tells us more about the NYT than it does about journalism.

So, I'm with Paul Raeburn on this one.

I suspect that it has nothing to do with the nature of the environment as "a story". Either the people there were doing a poor job, there were internal conflicts of some sort, or they just want to save money and the statement is flim flam.

Well, if NYT wants to make environmental reporting less of a beat and more of an obsession (as Revkin advocates), this may not be an entirely bad thing. However, judging by the letting go of their Environment editor, NYT is probably just giving up on environment reporting all together. Saddening state of affair.

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