Great Reporting, Running a Business, and Pursuing Equity .. The Case of E&E News

As promised, this is the third of three posts on the media.  Unlike TSW, most media outlets need to make money.  So to do good work, they might be tempted to hire “climate” reporters, or “political” reporters.  Because climate and politics get people engaged, and thereby more clicks; even if framing issues that way unintentionally changes the way they are reported.

Standing against this undesirable trend, as far as I can tell, is  Energy and Environment News.  They still have had the funding to hire people who keep up with, for example, our federal lands stuff.  Which is excellent.  So a shout-out to those reporters.

And they have a place to send corrections “E&E News strives to promptly correct errors in material published online. To request a correction, send an email to..”

E&E News was bought out by Politico. Hopefully that doesn’t encourage reporters to take a more political slant. They reassure us that “E&E News is a distinct brand,” so let’s hope they continue with that.

Nevertheless, there is a bit of a structural problem with this.  People cost money.  So if you have journalists with specialized skills, you need to charge for their time.  So..

I know one member of an NGO who is frequently called by reporters (if I mentioned the topic, it might give hizzer away).  However, the NGO hizzer works with can’t afford a subscription to E&E News, so hizzer has to ask other people, including me,  for copies of the article (to be sure, when I ask the reporters directly they have been helpful).  If this reminds you of academic publishing without open access… well, it reminds me of that too.

Folks from another (small) NGO told me that E&E News recently asked them for $4000 for a subscription for a year. As to The Smokey Wire, I filled out the form and the marketing people never even called me. But that was a while back.

Fortunately for us, there are enough TSW readers from large organizations who can afford subscriptions that ultimately for us, as of right now, it’s not a serious problem.  Still, we would discuss their reporting more if we had better access.

Here’s their list of “notable subscribers”

Notable subscribers

  • Government: DOE, DOD, DOI, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s Office, Democratic Whip Richard Durbin’s Office, House Energy and Commerce Committee, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

  • Energy companies: ExxonMobil, Xcel Energy, Southern Company, Shell, Duke Energy, Black and Veatch

  • Corporations: General Motors, Honda, Caterpillar, Boeing, Apple, Google, General Electric

  • Environmental groups: Sierra Club, The Conservation Fund, EDF, Environmental Law Institute, NRDC

  • Universities: Harvard, MIT, Stanford, University of Michigan, Yale

  • Law firms: Latham and Watkins, Vinson & Elkins, Akin Gump, Sidley Austin, Baker Botts

  • Think tanks: Brookings, Heritage, CSIS, CEI, RFF, Council on Foreign Relations

I know that Politico has programs for “diversity, equity and inclusion” internally. But what about externally?  How do for-profit corporations with good intentions make sure that their products are accessible to the less well off financially? How do they struggle with this conundrum?

My other thought is that philanthropic organizations spend millions (at least) “communicating” about climate change.  I think to be more accurate, these campaigns message the beliefs of the folks donating.  But with the passage of the IRA, it seems like we need to turn from talking/writing/messaging to actually building.  Which will require good information, discussion, two-way communication, and trust.

So as for me, if I were a philanthropist, I would instead use the funds to build a sliding scale for small NGO’s, and even individuals that would be more affordable.  If all people could get the same kind of quality information, in my view, and create an environment for open discussion, we will ultimately get farther down the climate road faster and with more stronger relationships with each other.  Also if less-well-off NGO’s had access to these stories, they could help with correcting errors and providing context to reporters. Win-win-win.  Any philanthropists out there?

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