Just about five years ago the New York Times boldly proclaimed that environmental news is so important it could not be shoe-horned into any particular section or Balkanized. It made the claim manifest by setting up what it called a green 'pod' of enviro writers, all answering to a most able science writer and editor, Erica Goode. The team had no specific section as its home, but could pitch its stuff to any editor who would run it. The lineup comprised Andy Revkin, Cory Dean, Felicity Barringer, Leslie Kaufman, Libby Rosenthal, Mia Navarro, and Matt Wald. That, as a ksj post at the time opined, was a heavyweight group. It changed some over the years, and Goode went on to other tasks. But the paper's commitment to excellence and doggedness in environmental reporting looked for real.
But as many and perhaps most Tracker readers know, the system worked just fine until it did not. The Times broke it up in January. In March, the paper's "Green" blog also hit the dirt. The paper's public editor (aka an ombudsman at most papers) Margaret Sullivan wrote that the paper's environmentally-aware credentials were in serious decline (see lead tracker Paul Raeburn's post at the time). She reported fears by readers that coverage was sure to ebb. Times brass conceded that the move would save money, but also predicted that re-integrating environment news into general newsgathering would actually "drive more of these important stories onto the home page and the front page."
The Times's watchdog didn't just file and forget. Her readers' suspicions are correct.
- NYTimes (Nov. 23) Margaret Sullivan: After Changes, How Green Is The Times? There are about a third fewer stories. Fewer of them are on the front page. The variety of original angles is down. The paper has hardly thrown in the towel, and has good people on the beat still, and named a new editor on the science desk to coordinate stories. But the results, it appears from Sullivan's telling, do not match the pod's quality and output. The Public Editor lets Al Gore have the last word.