I’m a little over halfway through my brief stay here at the Wilson Center. This fellowship was made possible by CNN: They laid me off, along with my entire science, tech, and environment news team, in December.
We’re not alone: Many reporters and producers like us have found new meaning to the phrase “working journalist.” Non-working journalists now represent a significant piece of the pie.
Rightly or wrongly, many top news executives view beats like science and environment as peripheral to the journalistic mission, or at least to the business plan, of their organizations. Attention to these topics in the general media has a hard time competing with things viewed as more central, whether it’s politics or Paris Hilton.
On Thursday, February 12, in the Wilson Center’s Flom Auditorium, we’ll celebrate Lincoln’s 200th birthday by discussing how to make sure science and environment reporting doesn’t perish from this earth.
Two of the most accomplished science and environment reporters in Washington will join us: Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press and Elizabeth Shogren (not yet confirmed) of NPR. Seth and Elizabeth were among the best chroniclers of the environmental controversies that marked the Bush era, and are closely tracking the promised “change” that may (or may not) be underway in the Obama administration. Both are alumni of news organizations that have recently seen traumatic change: Seth as a correspondent for the Washington Bureau of Knight-Ridder, and Elizabeth for the Los Angeles Times.
Also on the agenda is the future of journalism itself: Newspapers as we now know them may be terminally ill; TV broadcast news as we know it may be five or 10 years behind. Panelist Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab at American University, will bring her expertise on new- and community-based media. J-Lab is a journalism R&D; center, focusing on providing both guidance and financial support to citizen journalism projects. Jan, a former Philadelphia Inquirer editor and Pulitzer Prize winner, will help us see the way to what journalism will look like 10 and 20 years from now.
Space is limited, so RSVP to the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program soon. If you can’t make it to D.C., you can watch the webcast live.
Photo: Peter Dykstra. Courtesy of Dave Hawxhurst and the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Peter Dykstra is the former executive producer for science, technology, environment, and weather at CNN, and a current public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. He also writes for www.mnn.com.