Loss of Journalists

More than 50,000 journalism jobs have been lost in the US in recent years,  causing substantial decline in environmental news.

A 2008 study, “Environment Reporters and U.S. Journalists: A Comparative Analysis,” found 37% of nearly 1500 daily newspapers in the US had an environmental reporter at the beginning of the decade. In TV the numbers were even smaller: 10%.  Half those jobs have since been terminated according the co-author of the study JoAnn Valenti.

The most prominent example is CNN.  In the fall of 2008 it laid off its entire science and technology staff, a reporting team that consisted of 12 full-time journalists, plus interns, covering climate change, wildlife, alternative energy and more.  The team traveled the world to cover groundbreaking stories, but such specialized science and environmental reporting has become increasingly rare.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, nearly 150 papers had a science section two decades ago.  Now fewer than 20 are left, and most stories are now about lifestyle and health.

Another indication of this decline: In October, 2009, Columbia University’s highly regarded dual-degree graduate program in environmental journalism was suspended.

The ongoing decline in environmental coverage has serious implications.  The American public is consistently regarded as being less well-informed on climate change, and less concerned that citizens of most other industrialized countries.  The ability to pass effective public policies on the issue has been seriously compromised.