On the Beat


Why is USA Today doing the government's job?


Another example of the benefit to the public of a healthy and robust media industry is in USA Today this week. The paper spent eight months using a computer model developed by the EPA to figure out what kinds of air pollution likely existed around schools. What it discovered was that 435 schools "in 170 cities across 34 states" probably have levels of air pollution outside them worse than existed at a school in Ohio where cancer risks were deemed 50 times higher than acceptable. (Not surprisingly, all the schools highlighted in the article are in poor communities—and since you can be damn sure they'd tell you if the Gossip Girls kids were breathing toxic fumes eight hours a day, this is a statement about environmental justice, not editorial decision-making at USA Today.) Continue reading Why is USA Today doing the government's job?

TV News Camera Operator Frames Sarah Palin


In what is quite possibly her most cringe-inducing media appearance yet, Sarah Palin is here shown being interviewed for local TV news holding a latte and wearing a Burberry's scarf (I thought she said she was giving back the clothes the RNC bought for her?) while turkeys are slaughtered in the background. It's clear from the way the shot is framed that the camera operator or producer knew exactly what s/he was doing in setting up Palin this way; the shot looks like something out of Monty Python, with Terry Gilliam as the blood-stained turkeykiller. In case you are too distracted by the slaughter to notice what Palin says, her plans for the future as governor include "helping to govern this state."Sarah Palin, ladies and gentlemen... the gift to media bloggers that keeps on giving.  

Thanks to Huffpost for turning me on to this.  


60 Minutes Tracks E-Waste from Denver to China


"60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley's segment on illegal e-waste in China that aired Sunday, produced by Solly Granatstein, had all the classic elements of the program's essential investigative reporting: the stuttering CEO, the hand blocking the camera lens, the shocking facts that indict the viewer's very complicity in the problem being documented. Apparently all that electronic waste that newly eco-conscious consumers think they're recycling, Pelley and Granatstein found, is actually ending up in toxic dumps in China (and elsewhere). Continue reading 60 Minutes Tracks E-Waste from Denver to China

Minding the gaps


It's not easy covering the many fronts of the Bush administration's steady assault on environmental regulations, but it's a journalist's job to try.

Travesties like the 2003 Clear Skies Act – a proposed amendment to the Clean Air Act  co-sponsored in the Senate by that chamber's most notoriously anti-environment member, James Inhofe of Oklahoma – are relatively easy to spot. But the byzantine workings of the federal bureaucracy offer deregulators an array of far more insidious levers by which to dismantle or weaken environmental protections. Tiny procedural changes and office maneuverings, so hard to cover in an average newspaper column, can have a dramatic impact on the role the government plays in protecting or degrading the environment.

Continue reading Minding the gaps

Running long, digging deep


Of all the pressures facing an environmental reporter on deadline, the limited amount of space he or she has to explain complex issues might be exceeded in difficulty only by the short turnaround time in which to do so.

While magazine writers share these burdens, they generally have more freedom from them than daily filers, giving them the ability to follow their stories deeper and deliver work that gives a fuller and more nuanced account of the news.

Continue reading Running long, digging deep

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Issue 25



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