Q: What’s the latest with the Climate Desk partnership?
The newest members of our international partnership are Medium, The New Republic, and Newsweek.
Q: What is the Climate Desk?
A: The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, CityLab, Fusion, Grist, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Medium, Mother Jones, The New Republic, Newsweek, Reveal, Slate, and Wired.
Q: Why collaborate on a project about the climate?
A: Because even though it’s a fascinating and important story, it hasn’t been told very well.
Q: Why not?
A: There are four main reasons: 1) Climate change is slow-moving, vast, and overwhelming for news organizations to grapple with. 2) What coverage there is tends to be fractured and compartmentalized—science, technology, politics, and business aspects are covered by different teams, or “desks” of reporters, despite the intrinsic connections. 3) Coverage is too often fixated on imperiled wildlife, political gamesmanship, or the “debate” over the existence of climate change, all at the expense of advancing the bigger story—how we’re going to address, mitigate, or adapt to it. 4) Cuts to news organizations are making matters worse.
Q: Could that include problems with climate science or with advocacy groups?
A: Absolutely. Our only dogma is good journalism.
Q: So what’s the advantage to collaborating?
A: For one thing, more hands on deck and more outlets mean we can do more coverage, bringing our various strengths and audiences to bear. For another, given the transformation of the media business, collaboration seems to be part of the future of journalism. We want to test out a new kind of distributed journalism—bringing together a group of reporting shops to brainstorm, assign, and share coverage. Already, this process has enriched our own understanding of the issue, and that can only be a benefit to our readers.
Q: Why these partners?
A: The group developed organically, but we also started with a constellation that didn’t contain head-to-head competitors.
Q: So how will this collaboration manifest itself?
A: We’re dedicated to experimenting with different forms of storytelling. In our pilot project, a couple of pieces were assigned by consensus with an intent to run them across all of our publications; others originated with one shop but were offered up to all; and others ran in full only on the sites that produced them. Now, in addition to sharing or working together on print pieces, we’ve built out the multimedia side of Climate Desk, hiring a producer who specializes in merging documentary filmmaking with data visualization and social media integration.
Q: Where do you get your money?
A: Major funders include the Surdna Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Rosenthal Family Foundation, the Fidelity Charitable Trust, the Vanguard Charitable Trust, and Patagonia.
Q: How is the project administered?
A: Editorially, it’s run by a group of journalists from the partner organizations. Fiscally, it is hosted by the Foundation for National Progress, Mother Jones’ nonprofit parent. If we attain escape velocity, the Climate Desk could become its own 501(c)3 organization.
Q: Are you going to raise more money?
A: We sure hope so! Given that this story affects every person, creature, and business on the planet, we think there are many potential sources of funding. Anyone who’d like to support us can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Is there any other way I can help?
Q: How do I contact you?
Q: Who works on the Climate Desk?
James West is Climate Desk’s editor and producer. He’s the author of Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008), an intimate yet far-reaching account of modernizing China’s underground youth scene. After completing a masters in journalism at New York University in 2007, James returned to his native Down Under where he worked as the executive producer of the national affairs program Hack at the ABC. He has produced a variety of Australian television and radio programs, including the debate show Insight on SBS TV. He now lives on New York’s Lower East Side. Oh: Twitter Addict. Follow him. He wants more followers.
Tim is Climate Desk’s Associate Producer. His reporting covers the intersection of environmental policy and technology, and how everyone from peasants to presidents are adapting to life on a changing planet. Before coming to New York for the Climate Desk, Tim was a researcher in Mother Jones‘ home office in San Francisco. Follow him @timmcdonnell.
Jeremy is Senior Project Manager for Climate Desk. He was previously editor-in-chief of The American Independent and research and investigative director at Media Matters for America. Follow him on Twitter @jeremyschulman.