Yale Climate Media Forum (03/08 Update)

Thank you for visiting The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media.

As we pass the half-year point – Wow, already! – of our first anniversary, it is sobering to consider how much has changed in the months since this effort was little more than a gleam in the eye.

And yet, how, in some ways, so very little has changed.

The news about the news – to steal from the title of a book by that name by The Washington Post‘s Leonard Downie, Jr., and Robert Kaiser – remains pretty much unchanged, according to the March 2008 version of the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s “The State of the News Media 2008” report. There appears to have been a slowdown in the long-running consolidation of newspaper ownerships, the report says, but the continued shrinking of newsroom staffs, elimination of foreign bureaus, and scaling-back of specialized beats continues unabated.

On climate change, in particular, the persistent drumbeat of worrisome scientific findings continues largely unchanged … and increasingly worrisome. The February 2008 National Research Council report on implications of a warming planet for transportation infrastructure is truly sobering for all but the most absolutist stay-at-homes.

Consider also the World Glacier Monitoring Service report issued March 16 cautioning that data from glaciers in nine mountain ranges indicate more than a doubling of average rate of melting and thinning between the years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006.

Makes one wonder what kind of a person it is who so enjoys his work, when it involves what many say is a dying profession in what many others fear may be a collapsing world. Should one feel guilty for finding enjoyment amidst such challenging goings-on?

Of course not. Quality journalism on climate change or any other important issue need not necessarily end simply because traditional means of news distribution are giving way to new – and, one can say, better – modes.

It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that the term “blog” carried a nearly universal negative connotation. No longer. And it wasn’t so long ago that it was a compliment, and not an insult, to say a journalist had “ink in the veins” or that he or she was a “print journalist.”

Now, those are fighting words. Or should be. Read Howard Owens’ blog posting – “12 Things Journalists Can do to Save Journalism” – posted with permission on this site on March 18.

Pity those reporters, and there are many, whose newsroom employers (and there are too many) are so blind to the potential of the new media that they blithely ignore, even overtly discourage and disallow, the promise of the blogosphere and the web generally.

Change. It’s everywhere. And it’s awesome. Who could have guessed a week, or even a few days, earlier that Bear Stearns would net in a fire sale just one eighty-fifth of its stock value of just a year ago? Who would have guessed that the near-death candidacy of John McCain (R-Az) would lead him to becoming the inevitable GOP nominee-in-waiting? Who would have guessed that a once-inevitable Democratic candidacy would find itself struggling against steep odds to remain viable?

And who can guess how, in a struggling global economy in which only the “R” word goes unspoken, society will decide how and whether to address its changing climate future?

As it does, one thing remains certain: Scientists – physical and social scientists – and the media channeling and interpreting information to the public will remain critical. Helping them fulfill those commitments to their best remains the underlying mission of The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media. Let us know how we’re doing … and let us know how you can help in that effort.

Bud Ward, Editor

Bud Ward

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