Talk about mixed signals. On the very morning The New York Times signaled its plans to reassign its nine environment desk journalists to other sections, the paper ran a chilling photo of "extreme weather" above the fold on A1.
No one got fired, but Times managing editor Dean Baquet tells InsideClimate News' Katherine Bagley that the dedicated environment desk will fold over the next few weeks. "We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage," Baquet assures, saying that environment stories will be embedded in business, national, and local coverage. "This is purely a structural matter." There's no word yet on the fate of the Green blog, which has been edited from the environment desk.
Lots of environmentalists and science reporters weren't happy about the news. The Guardian's US deputy editor Staurt Millar was one of the many critics who noticed a symbolic disconnect between the paper's announcement and its current front page, teasing a story about extreme weather becoming the new normal in countries around the world.
On day NYT closes environment desk, it runs this on front page - extreme weather becoming more frequent and intense nyti.ms/Wxl23H— Stuart Millar (@stuartmillar159) January 11, 2013
But others thought this might be a good move for the paper's environment coverage, freeing up reporters and better integrating coverage with the rest of the paper. Quartz science reporter Christropher Mims thought the move could take climate coverage out of isolation, and Scientific American blog editor Bora Zivkovic agreed.
Topic/beat that is ghettoed in its own newspaper section is easily recycled without reading... mix it up! Throw it at unsuspecting readers.— Bora Zivkovic (@BoraZ) January 11, 2013
Environment reporting in general has been declining in recent years. But the Times has been running more environment stories than any other newspaper, according to a recent study by the Center for Science & Technology Policy Research. On Wednesday, the Times ran a provocative map above the front-page fold, alonside the news that 2012 saw the hottest U.S. temperature average on record.