The Times Killed Its Environmental Blog To Focus on Horse Racing and Awards Shows

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 4 2013 1:15 PM

The Times Kills Its Environmental Blog To Focus on Horse Racing and Awards Shows

Tough times in the news business have forced the New York Times to strip down its roster of news blogs to about 50, including nine on sports, six on styles, travel, leisure, and none on the environment.
Tough times in the news business have forced the New York Times to strip down its roster of news blogs to more than 50, including nine on sports, six on styles, travel, and leisure, and none on the environment.

Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

In January, the New York Times dismantled its environmental desk but promised that its coverage wouldn’t suffer. “We can tell the story just as well without the infrastructure,” managing editor Dean Baquet told the paper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan. Reaction to the news was generally disconsolate, but Bora Zivkovic at Scientific American offered an optimistic spin, reasoning that the paper could distribute environmental reporting across other editorial teams so long as it retained its “Green” blog as a hub for readers passionate about such issues. Zivkovic’s post was headlined, “Why the NYTimes ‘Green Blog’ Is Now Essential.”

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Essential or not, the “Green” blog is now dead as well. The paper’s editors announced the decision in a single-paragraph post that went live at 5 p.m. on Friday, the ideal time to publish a piece of news that you don't want to have to answer for. Columbia Journalism Review’s Curtis Brainard called the Times for comment shortly after 5 p.m. and was told that executive editor Jill Abramson, managing editor Dean Baquet, and corporate spokeswoman Eileen Murphy had all gone home for the day. The paper’s environmental editors didn’t answer their phones either.

Brainard obtained an email from Nancy Kenney, the deputy editor responsible for the blog, which indicated that the announcement came as a surprise to the staff as well. “Masthead editors at The Times informed me around noon today that they plan to discontinue the Green blog and devote resources elsewhere,” she wrote.

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Wonderful. If there’s anything the world needs in the 21st century, it’s less resources devoted to perhaps the most profound and pressing set of issues facing the world in the 21st century. But OK, everyone understands that these are tough times in the news business. So where, exactly, will those resources be devoted instead? The Times didn’t say, though the “Green” blog did publish an addendum that suggested green-minded readers follow the politics blog Caucus and the technology blog Bits. (Perfect for those who like their news about endangered species filtered through the lenses of horserace politics and/or gadgetry.)

Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of the 65-odd other Times blogs that did not get the axe:

  • Five blogs on business and finance, including “Bucks: A guide to consumer tactics that helps readers sort out their financial lives,” and “You’re the Boss: Where small-business owners get news, ask questions, and learn from one another’s mistakes.”
  • Four technology blogs, including “Gadgetwise: Helping consumers get the most out of their personal tech,” and “Open: A blog about code and development written by New York Times developers.”
  • Five blogs on culture and media, including “The Carbetbagger,” about awards shows; “After Deadline: Notes from the newsroom on grammar, usage and style;” and “Media Decoder,” a media-industry blog that so far has not seen fit to cover the Times’ own elimination of its “Green” blog.
  • Six blogs on styles, travel, and leisure, including two on fashion, two on travel, and one “all about the Times’ crossword puzzle, constructors and clues.”
  • Nine sports blogs, including “On Par,” a golf blog, “Straight Sets,” a tennis blog, and “The Rail,” on horse racing.
  • Six blogs on health, family, and education, including “The Choice: Help for students, parents and counselors on applying to, and paying for, college.”

Strangely, a blog called “Consults: Hear from experts in medicine, who will answer your questions about health,” is not included among the six blogs on health, family, and education. Instead it’s listed as one of the two remaining blogs about science and the environment. The other is “Scientist at Work: A modern version of a field journal offering the progress of expeditions.”

There are no news blogs left on the roster that even touch on the environment, though Andrew Revkin’s delightfully peripatetic personal blog, “Dot Earth,” lives on in the opinion section—at least until Jill Abramson and co. decide that environmental opinions, like environmental news, would best be distributed across opinion columns devoted primarily to other, more salable topics.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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