The New York Times’ Decision to Cut the Environmental Desk

January 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Just a couple weeks ago, the New York Times quietly announced that it was closing its environmental desk, which opened in 2009. Reactions to the news have ranged from outrage on behalf of those who argue this is the most imperative time to be reporting on environmental issues (what with 2012 setting huge records in heat, storms, etc.), but there are also those who understand that the change is largely motivated by a need to cut costs. However in an editorial for the Huffington Post, Al Gore made the valid point that the New York Times’ “role in informing U.S. policy debates is unique.” Gore’s concern that the New York Times, as one of the most widely read news publications in the country, can’t afford to stop reporting on these issues is one I tend to agree with.

That being said, the New York Times insists it will not cut coverage of environmental issues. The reporters who had been hired at the environmental desk will be relocated within the office. But now that there’s no specific call for these stories, will they still be covered as frequently and rigorously?

Some argue that this could be a beneficial change; that in fact, by integrating the environmental news pieces into more general stories on economics, politics and the like, readership of this coverage might actually rise. But we can’t know for sure, and although it might be a bit dramatic to interpret this move as a symbolic disregard for environmental issues, I can’t help but feel it’s a slight shrug in that direction.

I’ll be sad if their Green Blog disappears, as I always enjoyed those smaller stories that weren’t headliners but informative nonetheless. However I trust the New York Times to recognize the importance of these stories and not let them slip through the cracks. Time will tell.


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