‘Shock and anger’ as New York Times eliminates environment desk

The Gray Lady’s readers are seeing red over a decision to shut down the paper’s green desk.

The New York Times plans to shutter its standalone environment “pod” -- a pool of editors and reporters dedicated to green issues and the climate -- and redistribute them to other teams. The paper’s top editors claim the move won’t affect the paper of record’s efforts to cover the climate, however.


"To both me and Jill [Abramson, executive editor], coverage of the environment is what separates the New York Times from other papers. We devote a lot of resources to it, now more than ever,” Dean Baquet, the paper's managing editor for news operations, told InsideClimateNews.com. “We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter.”

But Margaret Sullivan, the Times' public editor, expressed dismay at the news.

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"Symbolically, this is bad news. And symbolism matters – it shows a commitment and an intensity of interest in a crucially important topic," Sullivan wrote.

"If coverage of the environment is not to suffer, a lot of people – including The Times’s highest ranking editors — are going to have to make sure that it doesn’t."

Andrew Revkin, who writes the Times’ DotEarth blog, described reaction to the decision on Facebook and Twitter as “shock and anger.”

Though he said it was a mistake to eliminate the position of environment editor, Revkin himself said he largely agrees with the move. But journalists and others on the environment beat disagreed, including Dan Fagin, who teaches journalism at New York University.

“[W]ithout a designated staff your editor would have to rely completely on borrowing reporters from other desks, and editors on those desks would get no credit from management for any environmental stories their borrowed reporters produce,” Fagin wrote on Facebook in response to a post by Revkin.

Beth Parke, executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists, was cautious in her reponse to the decision.

“It’s not necessarily a weakening to change organizational structure, but it does seem to be a bad sign.”