Newsroom Cuts Reap Heavy Toll On The E-Beat

May 1, 2009

The contraction of the news business in recent months has continued to take its toll on environmental journalists and their work. It also has prompted some innovative adaptations and interesting projects.

Among well-known environment writers cast out of work due to newspaper closings and downsizing were Chris Bowman, a longtime Sacramento Bee reporter and SEJ board member, and SEJ board member Robert McClure, a victim of the Seattle Post- Intelligencer's closing.

McClure posted a final, touching item March 16 to the blog he wrote with Lisa Stiffler for the Post-Intelligencer.

"This decade has been more enjoyable than any human being has any right to expect," McClure wrote, explaining that the P-I was ending the publication of its daily pages and continuing as an internet news source with a dramatically reduced staff.

McClure touched on many highlights of his career in Seattle. He singled out Stiffler and several editors for their good work. (See Stiffler's last posting to the P-I.)

"Again, thank you, readers for your interest," he concluded. "You made it all worthwhile. I am in your debt."

The blog is moving to, and McClure said he will be part of InvestigateWest, a journalism outfit dedicated to investigative, environmental and narrative journalism.

The former Seattle Post-Intelligencerreporter is helping set up the non-profit journalism venture to preserve investigative, enterprise and long-form narrative reporting on the West. InvestigateWest initially involves former P-I reporters and editors, but will be branching out geographically and, its founders hope, into photojournalism as well.

One other recent casualty: Tim Thornton of The Roanoke Times. Thornton, who had covered Radford University and Radford, Va., while also doing stories on the New River and other threatened natural resources, won an SEJ annual award in 2008 for his beat coverage.

Meanwhile, Peter Dykstra provided updates on himself and other SEJ members formerly of CNN's science unit.

Former CNN Anchor and Tech & Environment Correspondent Miles O'Brien has signed on for a documentary project with WNET, the New York PBS flagship station.

Former Science & Environment Producer Marsha Walton is contributing to the Mother Nature Network.

And Dykstra, former CNN executive producer, completed a two-month stint as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington in February, and is writing three columns a week for the Mother Nature Network.

In other media moves, John Ryan, a reporter at KTOO- FM in Juneau, Alaska, joined KUOW-FM in February as the Seattle NPR station's first investigative reporter.

Christine Heinrichs has a new book, How to Raise Poultry, published in April. Another part of the series, How to Raise Chickens, came out two years ago.

Peter B. Lord, environmental writer at The Providence Journal, is co-author of a book on the last 100 years of land conservation in New England. Charles H.W. Foster, former Massachusetts commissioner of natural resources, a past president of The Nature Conservancy and former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, edited the book, Twentieth- Century New England Land Conservation — A Heritage of Civic Engagement. Lord wrote the chapter on Rhode Island.

SEJ member Cara Ellen Modisett, editor of Blue Ridge Country magazine, recently released a book on the Blue Ridge Parkway with photographers Pat and Chuck Blackley, published by Farcountry Press.

BRC magazine has received several recognitions recently, including an award for Best Column for contributing editor Elizabeth Hunter's "From the Farm," from the International Regional Magazine Association.

Dick Russell's book, On the Trail of the JFK Assassins, was published by Skyhorse in November. The revised updated edition of Black Genius came out in February, and a paperback of his book with Jesse Ventura, Don't Start the Revolution Without Me, will be published in April, by the same publisher.

SEJ member and freelance author and journalist Kevin Clemens has a new book, The Crooked Mile: Through Peak Oil, Biofuels, Hybrid Cars, and Global Climate Change to Reach a Brighter Future. This book was developed during his eight-month Knight Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan in 2007-2008 and covers the past, present and future of the energy and infrastructure issues associated with transporta- tion. It is published by Demontreville Press of Lake Elmo, Minnesota.

Judy Fahys is environment reporter at The Salt Lake Tribune. Send updates on your latest job, web venture or book to


** From SEJ's quarterly newsletter, SEJournal Spring, 2009 issue.

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