Rebuilding Environmental Journalism
We've reported on the troubling cutbacks in environmental and science journalism plaguing mainstream media outlets, but as social media and online reporting change the nature of the game, there's evidence that the next generation of environmental writers actually may have more options for delivering stories to the world.
One promising example is the newly created News21 project, which arms the nation's top journalism students with new-media experience that will prepare them for a marketplace driven by blog traffic and Twitter feeds. Grants from the Carnegie and Knight foundations fund the ambitious project (the name is short for "News for the 21st Century: Incubators of New Ideas").
The multimedia initiative is led by eight "incubator universities," each focusing on a different issue. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has chosen to concentrate on one of our favorite topics: energy. UNC's contribution, "Powering a Nation" explores energy use in the United States through stories about wind farms, mountaintop-removal mining, biofuels, and coal activists.
News 21's Web sites offer feature articles complemented by multimedia documentaries, motion graphics, blogs, and games. Visitors to UNC's site can track their energy profile and compare with their friends' through social networking sites. The students are documenting the journalistic process on Twitter and blogs. "The project has had an enormous impact on the school," said UNC dean Jean Folkerts. "Students and faculty who are specialists in broadcast, digital media, print, and photography are working together in a single newsroom to focus on a serious issue for the country."