The 2013 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting (one of 14 journalism categories) has been awarded to
Lisa Song, Elizabeth McGowan and David Hasemyer of InsideClimate News, Brooklyn, N.Y., for their rigorous reports on flawed regulation of the nation’s oil pipelines, focusing on potential ecological dangers posed by diluted bitumen (or “dilbit”), a controversial form of oil.
Our hats off to the reporters and to InsideClimate News!
It’s exciting and reassuring to see the recognition that
Climate and energy are defining issues of our time, yet most media outlets are now hard-pressed to devote sufficient resources to environmental and investigative reporting. Our goal is to fill this growing national deficiency and contribute to the accurate public understanding so crucial to the proper functioning of democracy.
This is timely as a springboard for some thoughts as we work our way towards the first redesign and redefinition of Planet 3.0. (Call it P3.0.2 if you like or P302 for short…) So by way of lingering on the subject in homage to ICN, indulge us a little introspection.
About InsideClimate News
ICN started with the following contributors:
- Energy Foundation
- Educational Foundation of America
- Grantham Foundation
- Marisla Foundation
- Rockefeller Brothers Fund
An implicit mission of ICN was to rescue some of the best environmental journalists around. Gillis at the New York Times and Kolbert at the New Yorker may be almost alone in prospering in the field in America, but there actually are numerous journalists of the highest caliber on the environmental beat. The number of them make a respectable living at it, however, as we all know, has been precipitously shrinking as newspapers collapse and magazines struggle.
The rapid decline of the newspaper business, which may reach complete collapse (except for a few national papers) in the next couple of years, will be more than a little sad and inconvenient for some people, including a couple of my friends.
But even so, for me it can’t come too soon. The newspapers have utterly failed to connect with the community of experts in many important fields, maybe most, but they appear to have all but completely abandoned climate science. As a result of their alienation from expertise, they’re befuddling and distracting a distracted, befuddled society.
As individuals, reporters really are like the ones in the snarky old screwball comedies – cynical, witty, perceptive, and oddly candid and cagey at the same time. To them, the newspaper is the family. They should get over it – the newspaper hasn’t worked worth a damn for its customers for a long time, and we have something better now.
Institutions like Inside Climate News and the Texas Tribune are intended specifically to replace the newspaper. To build a lightweight, modern organization mostly dedicated to getting the best people who want to write about a topic paid well enough that they can write well enough to get paid. The reporters who ought to get by will.
Look, ICN and TT and such are getting by using lean tech and lean management and lean distribution and great reporters. And as the tip economy expands, they are going to thrive.
So what of us? What of P3?
Our purpose on this site is not to build traffic for profit through advertising. (I leave that to Huffington and their great new article “17 Exciting Ways Marketers Get You to Click 18 Times and Wish You Hadn’t“).
And it becomes clear from the success of ICN that the role we have in this field is not primarily that of conventional reporters. Though we have no objection to new reporting on our site, and we do try to point readers to the most important or interesting items to read on our turf, we are content to leave most of the (all-too-literal) muckraking to InsideClimate and their sort. If they can be funded to do proper journalistic research, that is a very good thing.
Journalists, however, even the best ones, have little idea how to build online community. The social interaction on conventional journalism sites is generally weak.
At P3 and our sister blogs, on the other hand, we we have nucleated a very interesting community. Lacking funds, most of us sneaking time from our day jobs, we and our friends have hosted some of the best online conversations anywhere.
If we aren’t reporters, then, who or what are we? A motley crew of informed, thoughtful ne’er-do-wells, ABDs, emeriti, academic eccentrics and hackers. People who want to have a place for ourselves to discuss, to think through things, to progress, to find a way to a better world.
We are my favorite people! I like us a lot! Somehow we’re managing to create something more than a mere echo chamber. We discuss, we exchange, and we make progress. We may not be the best writers, the most socially polished, the most politically agile. But if there’s a path to a decent future we are the ones to find it.
Call to Action
You probably think we are going to ask you for money at this point. Nope.
Maybe someday, yes, but not yet!
If we’re building a community of participation, what we need is for you to participate, and to find and recruit others who might want to participate.
What P3 is about is building, or contributing to building, a community whose special interest is, well, everything! We do this by reading, writing, commenting, praising, disagreeing, arguing and abruptly changing the subject. We do this by creating a place where it is safe to be an Earth Nerd. We do this by remembering Alan Kay’s dictum that the best way to predict the future is to invent it.
We hope you, the reader, will want to pitch in. Be a reader/writer. Comment. Write. Chart data. Draw schematics. Upload photos. Recommend us and talk us up on social media. Find the video of the week or the quote of the week. Brainstorm. Help us design ways to engage you and others like you on the internet.
Help us make the future fun again, not by ignoring or glossing over the risks and problems but by finding ways to resolve them.
It’s a Good Day for All of Us!
We’re a long way from deserving congratulations yet at P3.0, but so much for introspection. This is an occasion to celebrate forward movement both on the internet at large, and in sustainability journalism.
InsideClimate had a head start, but they have certainly earned their stripes! It’s now a must read-site. Congratulations!