Who, Where, What of This Century’s
Environmental Reporters Studied

Scholarly research done by three veteran science journalism professors sheds useful light on the who-what-where-how of environmental reporters in the 21st Century.

The academics based their conclusions on interviews done earlier this decade with 652 newspaper and TV reporters saying they regularly cover environmental issues. Internet, web, and journalism students were not included among those interviewed, a limitation some say undercuts the value and timeliness of the study given enormous changes under way in “mainstream” journalism.

Nonetheless, the study headed up by University of Tennessee journalism professor David B. Sachsman provides useful baseline information on environmental reporters’ educational backgrounds, job responsibilities and satisfactions, religion and ethnicity, political affiliations, and other qualities. It reports that slightly more than 23 percent of respondents who graduated from college and answered the question had majored in “one or another of the sciences,” and that nearly 39 percent of those had minored in a science.

“Despite the stereotype [of environmental journalists generally being political liberals or progressives], the percentage of Democratic environmental reporters (32.6%) was a bit lower than U.S. journalists in 2002 (35.9%),” the study said. By nearly 52% to 32.5%, environmental reporters were more likely than their newsroom colleagues to be independents. Overall, “similarities between environment reporters and U.S. journalists outweighed their differences.”

Sachsman’s co-authors for the study are James Simon, of Fairfield University, and JoAnn Myer Valenti, an independent journalism scholar formerly with Brigham Young University. For information about the study, contact Sachsman at sachsman@utc.edu.

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