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My open letter to the New York Times to dedicate more resources to environmental coverage.

Dear New York Times,

You have failed the American public.

Last week, you cowardly announced at 5pm Friday evening as your staff slithered away for the weekend, that you closed your one and only “Green Blog." The "Green Blog" was dedicated to environmental reporting and opinion.

Yet, you insist on keeping open - 9 sports blogs, 9 fashion blogs, 4 business blogs, and 5 tech blogs. These blogs are in addition to your regular features and daily coverage.

Why did you kill your ONE environmental blog while the rest of the world’s leading newspapers have tripled and quintupled resources towards regular environmental reporting?

Because your chiefs are out of touch. The above screen shots demonstrate how incredibly out of touch you have become. 

Dedicate more resources to environmental coverage.

Right now, leaders of 177 countries (that’s 91% of the world’s 194 countries!) have gathered in Bangkok to discuss the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Case in point: The above screen shots were taken minutes ago. The NYTimes has TWO articles on the same topic: scary Chinese people who eat everything. And not a single Times’ reporter is covering the CITES.

Instead, the Times’s focus is on British tabloid-esque trash full of articles referring to virgins, gays, junk food, diets, and scary Chinese boogie-men.

Al Jazeera, on the other hand, is currently running dozens of polished, tactful, and brutally honest articles covering the environment. The environment is one of the most discussed topics around the world. Al Jazeera knows this, and has dedicated massive resources to creating epic content.

Today, right now, you can read incredibly desperate and equally touching pieces by expert journalists who have the full support of the organization.

Al Jazeera, right now, has invested heavily in environmental coverage. Above, you can see this manifested in countless opinions, info-graphics, banners, videos, tweets, slide-shows, interactive maps, and hard-nosed, boots-on-the-ground editorials and features.

Its coverage of the most important environmental disaster stories of 2013 and beyond - CITES - is an utter embarrassment to the NYTimes.

Coverage at The New York Times? Zero.

Dedicate more resources to environmental coverage.

What should the NYTimes do?

1) Look at the above screen shots. Just look at them. Contemplate what you’ve truly become. The NYTimes reads like a lazy gossip rag, while Al Jazeera supports, nurtures, and sends their reporters into the field.

This should be the reverse. And I shouldn’t have to write this post against the Times.

2) Retire Jill Abramson. She is the bane of your existence as Alec Baldwin painfully exposed last month on his podcast. I know on good authority what many of the Times’s reporters really think of Abramson. And, I’m told, their private misgivings and opinions are couched in fear - fear of retribution and punishment. As such, reporters instead publicly crow Abramson as some sort of wise sage who gets a free pass.

Baldwin’s interview exposes Abramson as someone living in the 1980s and has clearly edged into senility. I highly recommend that you give the interview a listen (and if your butt hurts afterward, it’s because you were inadvertently forced to perform Kegels for 40 minutes listening to her cringe inducing responses).

3) Revamp your open-door policies. The purpose of a Free Press is to speak truth to power. The NYTimes cannot be taken seriously if your own reporters feel terrorized by internal politics, petty retribution, and shaky job-security.

4) Reporters: Stand up to your chiefs. Don’t feed a culture of internal reprise. Make the case that the Times is going to die unless it begins to take seriously what is really happening in the world.

5) Replace Jill Abramson with a public-facing, diverse, savvy, and active executive editorial board that can take risks and weather lumps. Staff this board with a diverse mix of hyper-intelligent reporters, editors, and managers from across newsrooms. Abramson is famously hell bent on Washington politics. Her myopic management framework is stale and it just has to stop.

Off the cuff suggestions (I’m winging this): Hire Andy Capper of Vice Magazine and shower him with money. Get advice from Jay Rosen and also that young dude who founded Tumblr. Poach Scott Rosenberg from Grist and, perhaps, some of the excellent editorial staff at the LA Times. Partner with Al Jazeera, the BBC, and the Guardian to create a shared international bureau. (And my gods, do something better with the stunningly brilliant Sam Tennenhaus).

In other words, let go of the precious past and get with reality.

6) Please, please end your racist, naive, fear-mongering coverage of China. China is not a boogie man bent on taking over the role of the world’s biggest bully (the U.S. are masters of this already). Instead, report on why economic growth requires massive pollution. Explain how integral economic growth cannot occur without a culture and legal framework built on the polluter pays principle. Show the world that you understand that environmental damage and species extinction is complex and nuanced. Blaming a foreign nation exposes you as lazy frauds with a conservative agenda. Instead, create dialog and inform your readers the ugly ills of fast growth and the need for strong environmental policies across the developing world.

7) Listen to your readers. A search of the phrase, “An Open Letter to the New York Times,” returns over 8 million hits. Most of these letters rail against the talking heads of the Opinion Pages. Very few have asked the paper to reflect on how it can better itself.

8) Dedicate more resources to environmental coverage. No excuses.

The world needs and loves the New York Times. And, as we witness its death, it has the opportunity to revamp, reshape, and rebuild on its original mission to Report with Integrity, Speak Truth to Power, be Connected to a Diverse and Changing World, and Inform and Empower Citizens.

With best intentions,

Michael Cote

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    Love it…
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    Really good points, assuming the Times has any interest in real journalism.
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