Is the New York Times’ latest editorial cut bad for the environment?

By Caitlyn Schmid| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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It is with deepest regret and disappointment that I write today about a decision that the New York Times has made regarding the elimination of the environmental desk. Within the next few weeks, the seven reporters and two editors who covered the environmental beat will be reassigned to different departments within the newspaper. Even though none of these people will lose their jobs (thankfully!), the loss of the beat is a grave one.

As one of the leaders in the spread of environmental news around the world, the New York Times has the ability to educate its readers and to invoke change regarding these issues. The newspaper was praised a week prior to its final decision by The Daily Climate for its increasing amount of coverage it devoted to the environmental beat. The deletion of the desk, however, wasn’t part of the newspaper’s offering of 30 buyouts to managers from different departments in order to reduce expenses in the mailroom.

Luckily for the environmental beat, the coverage will only be slightly less limited. To justify the decision, Dean Baquet, the paper's managing editor for news operations, explained that environmental stories today are "partly business, economic, national or local, among other subjects. They are more complex. We need to have people working on the different desks that can cover different parts of the story."

With each article regarding a different aspect to environmental change appearing in the respective section of the Times, a particular audience could potentially be lost. Not everyone reads the entire newspaper and this important topic deserves its own place.

Dan Fagin, the director of the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University, captured my sentiments exactly. He said, “The New York Times has too much editorial integrity to abandon its environmental coverage completely. But if you don't have the editorial structure to support the kind of commitment needed to do both daily coverage and deeper investigative and explanatory work, it is hard to imagine that you could keep the same level of intensity." One can only hope that the newspaper continues to cover environmental issues as completely as they have in the past.

Flickr photo cc by Robert Scoble