From the Editor

Now comes the hard part.

Amidst continued crumbling of long-established journalistic institutions and practices comes the need for journalists new and old, notwithstanding the pink slips all around them, to fulfill their journalistic responsibilities.

They’re asked to do so at a time of extraordinary financial pressures and economic uncertainties.

They’re to do so at a time of fiercely competing local, regional, national, and international demands.

They’ll do so amidst charges and counter-charges, needing to sort out subtle differences, countless unknowables, and starkly conflicting data. And do so in a news environment that imposes less research/reporting time; offers up fewer column inches and on-air minutes for serious reporting; and moves, seemingly incessantly, toward more generalized and fewer specialized beats.

They can do it, and no one says it is, or should be, easy.

Amid the hoopla in some quarters about a new Obama administration more committed than any in the past to addressing the myriad risks posed by climate change, uncertainty and confusion abound in the public consciousness.

A cold spate of weather – weather, that is … not climate – poses challenges of its own for those wanting to focus attention on longer-outlook warming climate projections.

Some newscasters, and in particular, most recently, some airing their views on CNN and other cable outlets, appear hopelessly confused and confusing in distinguishing between political opinion and scientific assessment.

Perhaps more seriously, responsible pollsters, mimicing their horse-race approach to elections, suggest that scientists “appear to be losing the battle on the idea that humans are to blame for global warming.”

The respected Rasmussen Reports tells us that 47 percent of Americans polled in April 2008 “blamed human activity versus 34 percent who viewed long-term planetary trends as the culprit. But the numbers have been moving in the direction of planetary trends since then.”

Strange that the trend appears to track what many perceive as a fall-off in media coverage of climate change. Cause and effect? Correlation? Could be.

At the same time, the Rasmussen folks report that 64 percent of voters “now regard global warming as at least a somewhat serious problem, with 41 percent saying it is Very Serious.” The poll results continue to show stark political differences, with Democrats far more concerned about the issue than Republicans.

As the few remaining two-newspaper towns teeter on the verge of becoming one-newspaper towns, as major metro dailies cut back on newsroom staffs, page widths, home delivery … and quality … the challenges of responsibly communicating on serious issues seem only to grow. These challenges involve not just climate change, but also economic recovery, health care, national security and terrorism, overseas wars, growing unemployment and more.

The year already is starting out as a momentous one, and it seems unlikely the coming months will much change that direction.

What state will each of these issues be in come the next New Year? The answer to some significant extent involves the state of the nations’ journalism over the coming year.

The challenges facing reporters and their news managers in these times are truly daunting. But the media, journalists, and other vital communicators can still do their best to meet their journalistic responsibilities and inform their audiences, notwithstanding the hills still to be climbed.

To borrow from a recent political campaign chant, “Yes. We can.”

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