Peter Dykstra: SEJ enters middle age with grace

I've made it to most of the Society of Environmental Journalists' 29 annual conferences, but not this one.


SEJ is the Jimmy Carter of non-profits – overlooked in real-time, but looking better and smarter with each passing year. This year's conference wraps up Sunday in Fort Collins, Colo (follow the action on social media via #SEJ2019)

SEJ's first national conference took place in 1991. It's now older than many of its members. At least one or two of its current Board members were fetuses back then. Most of its charter members are in their sixties, seventies, or beyond. Or gone. The membership used to be weighted toward full-time environment writers for daily newspapers. Now, the core is freelance journalists (though I've been trying to push the frequently more accurate term "subsistence journalists").

New blood working the beat

The beat has been re-energized in such legacy media giants as the Washington Post and New York Times. But SEJ's strength also lies in a proliferation of new sites doing dynamic investigative work and vivid storytelling.

Here are but a few:

The Intercept

Bankrolled six years ago by EBay entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, this website has rattled cages across the political landscape. Sharon Lerner is their prolific investigative reporter on the environment.

Southerly Magazine

A collection of long-reads on environmental issues in the American South. The year-old startup is the work of Lyndsey Gilpin, who seeks to fill in the gaps in a region vastly underserved in environmental reporting and storytelling.

The Revelator

Two years ago, the Arizona-based advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity launched a news site, The Revelator. Its well-told stories on species, habitats, and politics rapidly became a must-read.

Heated

A few months ago, Emily Atkin took her unique blend of insight and smart-ass from a very established place, The New Republic, to her new four-times-weekly newsletter, Heated.

Inside Climate News

When a startup site wins a Pulitzer, as Inside Climate News did six years ago, it suddenly no longer looks like a startup. But publisher David Sassoon's masterful adherence to an ambitious business plan can stand as a model for all others. It turns 12 years old this month.

Undark

Another Pulitzer winner, MIT's Deborah Blum, puts out a stream of big-think pieces at Undark. Its tagline: Truth, beauty, science.

And the list goes on...

There are too many other quality sites to mention, but here are four more that shouldn't be ignored: The solution-oriented theme of Ensia; the urban-ish tone of Citylab; the food-oriented scoops of FERN; and the saltwater stories of Hakai.

One recent casualty in the perilous world of nonprofit publishing is Pacific Standard, whose deep dives into environmental stories will be missed. It main funder pulled the plug in August.

Climate news goes mainstream

CNN.com

With climate change finally breaking through as a frontline issue for virtually all news outlets, and a zillion other plagues – ocean plastics, glyphosate, water quality, Trump's regulatory purge – making waves, our beat is poised to rise in prominence for the worst of all reasons: Out home planet is literally a hot mess.

We also press forward with an uncomfortable form of vindication: The planet is indeed warming up, and despite some strong efforts, getting dirtier. Species are indeed disappearing. So are habitats, from Arctic ice to tropical forests. Just like SEJ members and others have been reporting for decades.

The beat continues to face traditional foes: Indifference or timidity on the part of some bosses; the shaky financial footing for all journalism; well-heeled, slick, and often unprincipled interests who like to portray our news as Fake News.

But the beat goes on, and it's more crucial than ever.

And more importantly, with new blood, as the beat goes on

European drought dries up rivers, kills fish, shrivels crops | AP News
apnews.com

European drought dries up rivers, kills fish, shrivels crops | AP News

LUX, France (AP) — Once, a river ran through it. Now, white dust and thousands of dead fish cover the wide trench that winds amid rows of trees in France’s Burgundy region in what was the Tille River in the village of Lux.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Coastal erosion is the latest battle for the U.S. island caught in the crosshairs of climate change
www.cnn.com

Coastal erosion is the latest battle for the U.S. island caught in the crosshairs of climate change

Puerto Rico, which is battered by hurricanes and threatened by sea level rise, is experiencing coastal erosion at an alarming rate, scientists warn.
How safe are nuclear power plants?
www.newyorker.com

How safe are nuclear power plants?

A new history reveals that federal regulators consistently assured Americans that the risks of a massive accident were “vanishingly small”—even when they knew they had insufficient evidence to prove it.
Infrared video shows widespread oil and gas Leaks in Los Angeles
capitalandmain.com

Infrared video shows widespread oil and gas Leaks in Los Angeles

The South Coast air district is investigating dozens of complaints about toxic emissions seen in the 'shocking' footage.
Why don't all parking lots have solar panels over them?
www.cnet.com

Why don't all parking lots have solar panels over them?

Solar power and a covered parking spot seems like a great combination, but here's why many places are holding back.
Federal court reinstates ban on new coal sales on public land

Federal court reinstates ban on new coal sales on public land

A federal judge on Friday reinstated a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands after finding flaws with the Trump administration's environmental analysis.
From our Newsroom
Colorado fracking

How Colorado is preventing PFAS contamination from the oil and gas industry

And how other states, including Pennsylvania, could do the same.

fracking kids health

PFAS: The latest toxic concern for those near fracking

The “forever chemicals” are used by the oil and gas industry, but a lack of transparency and accountability makes it impossible to know how widespread contamination could be.

supreme court climate change

Op-ed: Reflections on the Supreme Court’s Decision in West Virginia v. EPA

Danger resides in the majority’s having invoked a sweeping “Major Questions Doctrine” to justify its decision in this relatively narrow case.

children health

Derrick Z. Jackson: Children will suffer the consequences of recent Supreme Court rulings

A rash of recent decisions by the high court will irreparably impact our children's health.

summer reading list

Our annual summer reading list, 2022 edition

Happy 4th of July! Here's some summer reading picks from our staff.

environmental injustice

Centering biodiversity and social justice in overhauling the global food system

“The food system is the single largest economic sector causing the transgressing of planetary boundaries.”

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.