WSJ’s ‘Environmental Capital’ Blog Launched

You might want to think about adding another journalist’s blog to your internet “favorites” or RSS feed-reader.

Veteran Wall Street Journal reporters Jeffrey Ball and Keith Johnson this week launched “Environmental Capital“. Most of the reporting is to be done by Johnson, with Ball editing and also contributing copy.

Ball, who works from the Dow Jones Dallas bureau, said in a phone interview that the new blog will “provide daily analysis about the business of the environment,” which he characterized as “a huge economic story affecting everything from established industries to new investors.” He said an expected five to six original postings each day will help identify “new winners and losers” and generally complement the newspaper’s ongoing print coverage.

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In launching the new blog now – it replaces an existing “Energy Roundup” blog – Ball pointed to global climate change as a “hugely important issue in an economic sense and not just solely in a moral sense.” While climate change is not the sole impetus for the new blog, he said “certainly things have changed globally,” and business interests’ attention to the issue has “skyrocketed” regardless of how some company executives might feel about the issue politically.

Pointing to “a lot of polarized rhetoric” on the issue among blogsters, he said the new blog will “try to separate hype from reality,” address emerging technologies, and also report on “political fights” about the issue. Using podcasts, videos, and other multimedia tools, he said, the effort seeks to foster a dialog on business aspects of climate change and other environmental issues “while applying the same ethical standards to this that we do to the paper’s reporting.”

Asked if the Journal‘s highly regarded news department or its controversial editorial page will exercise control over content of the new blog, Ball said it will be entirely independent of the editorial section, just as the news pages are. Asked if the initiative – which he described as an “experiment” – reflects new owner Rupert Murdoch’s expressed concerns over the seriousness of climate change, Ball said the new site has been in the planning since before Murdoch’s News Corporation bought Dow Jones, publisher of the Journal. He said he is aware of “no conversations” with Murdoch concerning the new blog and said he sees “no impact whatever” from the recent change in ownership.

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Ball said also that the launch of the blog is unrelated to the apparent early successes of New York Times science reporter Andrew C. Revkin’s recently lunched global change blog.

At the same time, however, no one doubts that the Journal and the Times, as two of the most influential and most respected newspapers in the world, compete fiercely. Media critics have pointed out that in purchasing Dow Jones, the strongly competitive Murdoch has promised to be even more competitive with the “Gray Lady,” aka The New York Times.

In reporting on the new WSJ blog, Revkin’s dotearth posting featured a beaming Murdoch photo taken not by a Times reporter but rather purchased from Getty Images. Revkin reported a blogster’s recent open letter to Murdoch saying “It is far less important to the world for the Wall Street Journal to offset its carbon emissions – in fact it is probably inconsequential – than it is for the newspaper’s editorial page to cease its shameful and retrograde opposition to climate action.”

“Perhaps the revised blog reflects that spirit, on the news side of the house at least,” Revkin wrote. “My guess is that it more likely reflects the reality that heaps of major corporations are aggressively trying to improve their environmental credentials, while others – like Google and BP – are investing in non-polluting energy technologies.”

Among the earliest commenters on Revkin’s blog posting was an otherwise unidentified Robert Verdi saying “They are trying to put you out of buisness (sic).

For his part, Ball said he expects early a.m. posts to the new Journal blog to be a roundup of important overnight and previous day news, an “anchor post” by Johnson and “other people from around the ‘empire’” (meaning Dow Jones). Those posts generally will provide analysis of the news, and not report what he characterized as wire service breaking news.

Judging by the initial posting, Ball and Johnson and their colleagues will have considerably more freedom in using a creative writing style than they do in the newspaper itself, a characteristic of blogging overall.

In a launch-day piece on Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), for instance, Johnson opened the piece with: “Here’s a question for Environmental Capital readers: is losing the White House to George W. Bush a prerequisite for environmental stardom?”

Comparing Kerry to former Vice President Al Gore, also defeated by Bush in a presidential campaign, he concluded his piece by asking: “Will it take a movie to win a trip to Oslo?,” a reference to Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” film and his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in Stockholm. It’s not the kind of reportage one would normally expect to see in the staid news pages of the Journal.

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is editor of Yale Climate Connections. (E-mail: bud@yaleclimateconnections.org).
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