Journalism is dead; long live journalism


I love writing. If perchance I have five free minutes on any given day, I will spend it either reading or writing, and this has been true since I was five years old.

Journalism–holding power to account, communicating important events and ideas to the public, being part of the public discourse that makes democracy possible–is crucial. Without it, modern societies cannot function in the way that they are designed to. Thus the demise of newspapers troubles many people: whither newspapers, whither democracy, whither freedom?

It’s the sort of thing that tends to get a girl using anachronistic phrasings for dramatic impact.

And yet, for those of us toiling away in the environmental trenches, stories like this make us wonder if we wouldn’t all be much better off if every newspaper office in the world went up in flames tomorrow.

Because the man is right. One of the most important reasons that needed actions to forestall or mitigate climate change are not happening is because that wonderful institution called the newspaper continually obfuscates and confuses the issue by publishing the ill-informed and fossil-fuel-funded rantings of a handful of self-proclaimed climate experts without enough peer-reviewed publications between them to start a decent-sized bonfire. Are we better off without newspapers, maybe? What should take their place?

I write. I publish smallish articles on environmental subjects in magazines. For entirely selfish reasons, I’d like to see the entire industry not come to a grinding, crashing, apocalyptic, ignominous end just moments after I try to join it. (Figures.) (Kidding!)

On the other hand, if this is the best that the fourth estate can do, maybe we should let it die and be replaced by something that actually manages to do what journalism is supposed to: communicate the truth to the public so they can elect responsible officials on workable, reality-based platforms that will contribute to the continuance of human civilization and all of its itty bitty working parts.

The ideal of journalism is so, so pretty, and so necessary, and yet the messy, human-infested reality of it is so often the exact opposite of what we need.


(For interesting, on-going coverage of the complexities of climate change in the media, see The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media. Hopefully the Science Media Centre of Canada will help us locals out once it gets itself more established.)

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