Talking about a revolution

  • Greg Hanscom

 

For 33 years, High Country News has built its reputation on giving people news about the West’s environment. At times, it’s been a lonely business. Betsy Marston, who served as the paper’s editor from 1983 to 2001, says that in the 1980s, HCN was one of the only newspapers that consistently covered issues affecting the West’s public lands — which make up half of this million-square-mile region. “We weren’t alone,” she says. “The LA Times was good in the ’80s. But the local papers missed the stories.”

These days, papers such as The Oregonian, The Idaho Statesman, The Durango Herald and the Arizona Daily Sun understand the importance of covering the environment. They know that it’s perhaps the most important story in a region where the land, both public and private, is under unprecedented pressure from suburban sprawl, oil and gas drilling, hordes of recreationists and a host of other assaults. They know that without solid information, Westerners will be hard-pressed to make informed decisions about what we want this region to become.

So these days, High Country News has some good company, but not very much, according to a recent review of the West’s daily newspapers. By and large, these papers miss “the big story” of growth and the environment, according to Matching the Scenery: Journalism’s Duty to the North American West, compiled by the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources in Missoula, Mont.

As HCN Editor in the Field Ray Ring notes in this issue’s cover story, Journalism’s Duty sheds light on a lack of environmental coverage that many readers of HCN have been painfully aware of for a long time. The report also suggests some remedies, which boil down to this: Newspapers need to put more resources into good journalism, rather than just padding the pockets of corporate bigwigs and stockholders.

While the report may serve as reality check, a real revolution in the newsrooms will require more from all of us. If we want to see less sensational junk, and more stories about the important issues, we need to make that known. After all, we’re the ones who drive the bottom lines for these operations, and we’re the ones who suffer when shoddy journalism only deepens divisiveness and makes our problems worse.

Letters to the editor certainly help, but the situation calls for more. Why not form reader advocate groups, to pressure newspapers to cover “the big story,” and to fulfill their responsibility to the public? Meet with publishers and editors. Boycott papers that continue to miss the mark. Picket the newsrooms. (The TV stations would love to cover that!) Put up billboards pointing out that the papers are falling down on the job.

Here we sit, in the middle of one of the biggest environmental stories going — the unraveling of the landscape that Wallace Stegner once called “the native home of hope.” Don’t you think we have a right to know about it?

High Country News Classifieds
  • WMAN NETWORK COORDINATOR
    WESTERN MINING ACTION NETWORK (WMAN) CONTRACT OPPORTUNITY CLOSING DATE: Feb. 19, 2021 WMAN is seeking a team member to coordinate the various network activities to...
  • FRIENDS OF THE INYO IS HIRING TRAIL AMBASSADORS FOR THE SUMMER OF 2021
    Friends of the Inyo's Trail Ambassadors (TAs) support the Inyo, Sierra, & Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests and other partners by providing positive public service, outreach, interpretation,...
  • LAND & CABIN ON CO/ UT LINE
    18 ac w/small solar ready cabin. Off grid, no well. Great RV location. Surrounded by state wildlife area and nat'l parks.
  • MANAGER PERMACULTURE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR
    Permaculture / Landscape Company Manager / Site Lead Red Ant Works, Inc. - 20+ year landscape construction and horticultural care company seeks manager and site...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau with lodge, river trip and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is looking for a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help grow our membership and presence in the Four...
  • ENERGY AND CLIMATE PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    San Juan Citizens Alliance seeks an Energy and Climate Program Associate to focus on public outreach, education and organizing to advance campaigns to mitigate climate...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    This position provides professional real estate services and is responsible for managing and completing real estate projects utilizing a project management database that is designed...
  • WILDFIRE MITIGATION SPECIALIST
    The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist is responsible for delivering wildfire risk mitigation information, recommendations and programmatic resources to wildland urban interface homeowners, community members and partners....
  • DEVELOPMENT POSITIONS
    Thorne Nature Experience is hiring for a Development Director and Senior Individual Giving Manager. Individuals will work collaboratively with Thorne's Executive Director to develop and...
  • SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION & ENERGY
    The National Parks Conservation Association, a 100-year-old nonprofit advocacy organization and the nation's leading voice for national parks seeks a Senior Program Manager, Landscape Conservation...
  • BACKCOUNTRY AND FRONTCOUNTRY STEWARDSHIP CREW MEMBERS
    The San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) is hiring a crew of ambassadors to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to educate visitors on...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATURAL HISTORY INSTITUTE
    The Executive Director is the chief executive officer of the Natural History Institute (NHI). The Executive Director has broad authority to lead and manage the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    - The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region - The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful,...
  • SENIOR DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE
    Greater Yellowstone Coalition seeks a Senior Development Associate to coordinate the organization's individual giving program. The position description is available at http://greateryellowstone.org/careers Please email a...
  • TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISORS
    SEEKING TALENTED TRAIL CREWLEADERS The Pacific Crest Trail Association, headquartered in Sacramento, California ,is dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting the Pacific Crest National Scenic...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Native plant seeds for the Western US. Trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers and regional mixes. Call or email for free price list. 719-942-3935. [email protected] or visit...
  • THE LAND DESK: A PUBLIC LANDS NEWSLETTER
    Western lands and communities--in context--delivered to your inbox 3x/week. From award-winning journalist and HCN contributor Jonathan P. Thompson. $6/month; $60/year.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...