What do Weather Channel seductress Heidi Cullen, Steven "wedge" Pacala, former TIME writer Michael Lemonick, soon-to-be NOAA head Jane Lubchenco, and Grist founding board member Ben Strauss have in common?
They’re all part of an new project called Climate Central. It was mentioned briefly in this recent post about Lubchenco, but it’s so interesting and innovative that it merits further digital ink — which I was going to provide myself, but Curtis Brainard of the Columbia Journalism Review beat me to it.
Climate Central is a hybrid team of nearly two dozen journalists and scientists — spread between a main office in Princeton, New Jersey and a smaller one in Palo Alto, California — who work side by side on stories for television, print, and the Web. Relying upon a non-profit business model that is similar to The Center for Investigative Reporting, ProPublica, and others, Climate Central pitches its work to local and national news outlets, looking for collaborative editorial partnerships. It also makes its various experts, many of who are still affiliated with major research institutions, available as primary sources. The goal is to “localize” the story around regions, states, or even cities, in order to highlight the various and particular ways that changes in climate are affecting people’s daily lives.
As Brainard points out, this new effort comes at a time when traditional news outlets are struggling to produce original environment-related content (many, like CNN, have axed their science and environment teams).
Whether Climate Central will be, as communications scholar Matthew Nisbet puts it, "the future of science journalism — non-profit partnerships providing independent and syndicated science coverage,” or whether it will falter under conflicts of interest (real or perceived), remains to be seen.
But it’s great to see scientists stepping up to the plate — or if you’ll indulge a double-edged pun — to the green screen.