An enterprising journalistic endeavor is a welcome change of pace from the standard media fare.
Media coverage of climate change often has a broadly political, scientific, or trivial bent. Stories are driven by a daily — even hourly — news cycle. Reporters on the climate beat mostly write articles about new studies in prestige journals, related national and international policy and political developments, advocacy campaigns, and controversial statements from well-known figures. Recent examples of the latter would be reporting on famed scientist James Lovelock and baseball announcer Tim McCarver.
What we don’t see much are climate change stories at the local or regional level.
So it’s refreshing to hear of a young, enterprising journalist who aims to cover climate change from the ground up. Check out this impressive initiative by Ari Phillips, a graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin. This summer, Phillips will be traversing the American Southwest to cover climate and energy-related issues. Here’s his plan:
I’ll compile a regional report through firsthand accounts and onsite reporting in an attempt to demonstrate the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues at hand. I’ve identified nine critical stories below — from the surging natural gas production of Midland, TX to the controversial solar parks of the Mojave Desert.
His ambitious venture is posted at Kickstarter, a website that enables people to solicit funding for individual projects.
Phillips, a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, makes clear that he is motivated by concerns about climate change. He’s hoping that “through my reporting I can call attention to some of the most pressing issues in the region.”
That’s fine. Advocacy reporting has a time-honored place in the history of journalism. Phillips’ articles will and should be judged on their journalistic merits. Based on the outlines of the stories he’s sketched out for exploration, it appears he has a solid grasp of the cross-cutting issues and nuances that make climate change such a challenging issue to report on at the local level.
Phillips hopes to place his stories at various regional and national outlets. To that end, he would do well to contact editors ahead of time and solicit their input. Because there is a dearth of climate coverage in local newspapers, Phillips should also try to work with local outlets in the regions where his stories are set. Since his goal is to “call attention” to the impact of climate change at a local level, his most receptive and important audiences will be local ones.