Environmental journalism training ebbs and flows with political fortunes
By Carol Terrracina Hartman
CMR Co-Managing Editor
A professional myth pervades the field of environmental journalism, but likely has some basis in fact: when a Democrat holds the White House, the jobs for environmental journalists evaporate: here come the pink slips. But when a Republican has the White House, it’s major job creation: every media outlet staffs up on environmental and science writers.
The unspoken perception is that the environment is a partisan issue and therefore safe to ignore at certain times, thus requiring less reporting. What that says for journalists, is that it becomes harder to report and publish on environmental issues because editors and media outlets perceive that the environment is “safe”: a crisis can’t occur.
Ethical issues aside, where does that leave undergraduate science writing programs? If opportunity to report potentially ebbs and flows every four years, how do professors plan curriculum and attract students to the programs?
A panel hosted at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Sacramento September 2016, addressed the best practices for teaching science and environmental reporting. A common theme emerged among the speakers: interdisciplinary approach.