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Annual Public Lectures Series > Amanda Griscom Little

Scientists and Journalists:
Getting the Point Across
June 12-16, 2006

The Shifting Landscape of Environmental Reporting
Amanda Griscom Little, Columnist, Grist Magazine
Summary of comments from June 14

On June 14, 2006, Grist journalist Amanda Griscom Little lectured at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography on the shifting landscape of environmental reporting, highlighting five key points that every environmental journalist should understand. These five points were the environmental landscape itself, environmental policy, the industrial and corporate landscape, the environmental movement, and the coverage of all these issues.

Little began by explaining that the task of environmental reporting leaves journalists facing both "crisis and opportunity." They must present their audience with detailed and accurate information while also portraying what may happen if the situation is not dealt with and resolved. Their opportunity is the chance of landing a front-page story.

Environmental policy concerning energy and climate has greatly shifted in the past few months, especially as a result of recent events, including high oil prices and hurricane Katrina. These occurrences bring up powerful human emotions, which have sparked an increase in environmental activity at local, state, and federal levels.

Industry is also beginning to see major policy changes. New local and regional laws are making it easier to force factories to run cleaner and more energy efficient. Little explained that one of the most interesting and worldwide stories of this generation will be "chronicling the birth of a truly new kind of business strategy, and the reconciliation of longtime foes nature and commerce."

Business leaders today are much more aware of environmental policy; some have even started to self-monitor and control their CO2 emissions beyond government imposed regulations. The General Electric Company has expressed interest in promoting environment friendly products for profit, which could be an important influence on climate change.

Both Democrats and Republicans are working to produce ambitious energy bills, moving the process of environmental awareness and protection forward. With bipartisan support, the likelihood of passing progressive bills is greatly increased, an encouraging notion for all those who support positive environmental change.

The nature of environmental reporting is also undergoing a serious revolution. While environmental problems are becoming more complex and dynamic, so are the various voices trying to explain them, including online blogs and magazines. And, as technological advances allow more scientific progress and greater understanding of potential environmental crises, journalists have even more information to convey to the public.

Little encouraged environmental reporters to focus on the main issues, highlighting events and their results, instead of misconstruing the important information with too much peripheral information. She ended by stating, "Focus on the known. Accept the uncertainties. Choose a course."

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December 4, 2007