What is it?
What is Journalism?
• Merriam Webster:
• the collection and editing of news for
presentation through the media
• Telling true stories, well and accurately.
• Communicating information that will help people make
sense of their world.
• Getting the story behind the story, avoiding the spin,
finding the truth.
• A public trust with citizens to investigate and expose
wrongs and trumpet rights.
• Doug Saunders : “universal reflex of citizenship.”
• Adding meaning to facts.
• “Gathering, analyzing, and disseminating socially relevant
information in a consistent, transparent, and honest way.” -
• --Thanks to Gina Chen!
What is Good News Writing?
• What happened?
• How has the world changed?
• So what?
• ABC: accuracy, brevity, clarity.
• multiple authoritative, reliable sources
• Quotes effectively
• Provides context
• balanced, unbiased
• Shows the reader what happened; doesn’t tell
the reader what to think.
The five Ws and an H
• and How
What is environmentalism?
• Environmentalism, is a broad philosophy and
social movement regarding concerns for
environmental conservation and improvement
of the state of the environment.
Ok, really, what’s environmentalism?
• "The more clearly we can focus our attention
on the wonders and realities of the universe
about us, the less taste we shall have for
—Rachel Carson, 1954
Paul Brooks, Rachel Carson’s editor:
• Conservationists need words because what
they are trying to do is to enlighten and
inform: to change fundamental attitudes , not
because they say so, but because they have
the facts that will command such change.
The Forest Beyond the Pyramid
Least Important; supporting
• Environmental writing reaches deeper with
beginning, middle, and end integrally joined. It
thinks not simply of Who, What, When,
Where, Why and How, but of species instead
of an animal, a forest instead of a tree.
… the Whole
writing with a purpose…thinking about the
whole, with breadth and perspective
– --Michael Frome
Asking deeper questions.
More than reporting
• Social service
• Voice to struggle
• Honesty and purpose
• Risk and sacrifice
• Care for the non-human world
Are environmental reporters just tree
huggers with a notebook?
No, but get beyond the…
Report. Don’t Exhort.
• People who want to write about the
environment, care about the environment.
That means they don’t think the way most
people think. –Candy Page, BFP
• You can’t assume everyone shares your
values, speaks Ecologish or gives a shit about
• Make them care by showing them what’s true.
• Good guys vs evil polluters is not always useful
• Take the side of science
• Convey what the science has revealed
• What is not understood
• Future research
• Amount of uncertainty
• Activism lies in choosing subjects like climate
change and biodiversity loss that the media
tend to shy away from because they don’t fit
– Clear news “peg”
– Risks relevant to daily life
• “Environmental stories don’t break, they
—Frank Allen, Ex-Wall Street Journal writer