Denounce Disbandment of Environmental News Team


Target: Anne Gudenkauf, Senior Supervising Editor, NPR Science

Goal: Denounce news agency for cutting its environmental news team

NPR has slashed the number of staffers it devotes to environmental news, leaving just one reporter who covers climate and environmental issues only part-time. By contrast, the science desk at the national news agency had one editor and three full-time reporters devoted to climate news in early 2014. One of the reporters, Richard Harris, has been well-known for his climate science knowledge since the early nineties, but in March he shifted to reporting on biomedicine. Another long-time reporter at NPR, Chris Joyce, is remaining as a part-time environmental reporter. Meanwhile the third reporter from the old team, Elizabeth Shogren, is no longer with the agency. The team’s editor, Vikki Valentine, has been shifted to global health and development issues.

Anne Gudenkauf, the senior supervising editor of the science desk, told InsideClimate News that the move wasn’t intended to shortchange environmental news, but rather was part of an effort to give other scientific fields more focused coverage. She commented that she didn’t “feel like [the environment] necessarily requires dedicated reporters” because other staffers cover some climate stories in addition to their regular beats. She also asserted that she has not perceived a change in the volume of climate-related material as a result, but an InsideClimate News report notes that content published with the “environment” tag has declined since January 2014. Throughout 2013 NPR published over 60 environment-related stories per month, whereas in 2014 that number has dropped to around 40 such stories per month. NPR has already seen some backlash from readers and listeners for refusing to cover the People’s Climate March last month, but instead of increasing environmental coverage again, NPR’s ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos went on the defensive in response to claims that the agency was stepping lightly to appease its oil and gas industry sponsors.

Caring about the environment isn’t old news. Tell NPR’s senior science editor that demoting climate change and environmental coverage to a part-time priority is the wrong decision.


Dear Anne Gudenkauf,

I am extremely disappointed in NPR’s decision to slash its environmental news team. As a valued news source for many Americans, NPR is trusted to bring fair, unbiased coverage of the issues, and climate change is one of the most pressing issues on the global horizon. By demoting environmental news to part-time, irregular coverage, NPR is sending the message that the environment is not a priority – but as a reader and listener I insist that it should be a priority. While The New York Times at one point made a similar move with their environment desk, they recently brought it back because Times editors acknowledge the central importance of climate change news.

I urge you to reverse your decision, like the Times editors did, and reinstate your environmental news team. I urge you to acknowledge that climate change and environmental news is indeed a major focus for many of your readers and listeners. Please follow the example of the Times and devote more reporters and editors to the important issues related to climate change and environmental policy.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: AgnosticPreachersKid via Wikimedia Commons

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