My Climate Journalist Fantasy Team and Its Player of the Week: Justin Gillis, NYT
So I kind of have a climate journalist fantasy team. I mean, who doesn't, right? Right, guys? Guys?
I'm a big hoops fan and was the 'hydration facilitator' (re: water boy) for my high school's basketball team, so of course my fantasy team is modeled after an NBA fantasy team.
In the power forward slot I have David Roberts (@drgrist on Twitter), who is basically the LeBron James of climate journalism/blogging (for all of you King James haters, it's meant as a compliment in this context). He's just a beast in general, but moreover he's extremely versatile, which is why he's in the 4 spot.
He covers everything: climate policy, climate communications/psychology, climate economics, climate politics, the whole enchilada. He can even make such arcane subjects as electric utility regulatory structures and the statistical assumptions behind climate models not just accessible but downright hilarious (usually through employing pictures of adorable animals, in true Grist fashion). If that's not the mark of a champion, I don't know what is.
"Slow down, Dave, your lucid excoriation of Nordhaus's paltry discount rate is blowing my mind!"
On the wings I have Coral Davenport (@CoralMDavenport) and Amy Harder (@AmyAHarder), two incredible reporters for the National Journal. They're the long-range sharpshooters, producing in-depth, thoughtful, and well-researched/well-sourced work that is a balm and an antidote to all of the falsely balanced "he said-she said", horserace-driven drivel that typifies most Beltway reporting (*cough*mostPoliticoreporting*coughcough*)
For a taste of some of Ms. Davenport's best work, check out this shocking story on the local election that could determine the fate of northwest coal exports and this brilliant piece highlighting present-day climate impacts and their economic costs.
For Ms. Harder's work, see her coverage of what current and former Obama advisers think about Keystone XL's place in climate policy and her profile of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as a closet environmentalist.
(Note: Darren Goode (@DarrenGoode) and Andrew Restuccia (@AndrewRestuccia), who write for Politico and Politico PRO, are also exceptions to the Beltway rule and definitely make this fantasy team as well. They rotate at the 2 and 3 spots with Ms. Davenport and Ms. Harder. See Mr. Goode's story on Tom Steyer's campaigning against KXL and his future campaign plans and Mr. Restuccia's story from this past March on greens' expectations for Obama's second term).
At point I gotta have Brad Plumer (@bradplumer), a wonk's wonk who was at the New Republic a few years back before he went into free agency and got picked up by the Washington Post. If you want policy, he's your guy. And depending on your perspective, he either gives Dave Roberts a lot of assists for post ideas, or "steals" ideas for posts before Roberts can write about them (according to their Twitter banter), so that fits with a point guard's stat line. See Plumer's recent story on the Obama administration's recent decision to stop funding new coal plants overseas.
But the team member I want to focus on is the center, the big guy. Specifically, he's the center because he just keeps relentlessly pounding it in the paint with some serious individual longform pieces as well as incredibly lengthy series that have garnered him much respect and even some prestigious journalistic awards.
That center, my friends, is Justin Gillis of the New York Times, whose piece last Monday on Obama's divestment mention in his climate speech and the divestment movement in general is simply a must-read.
Now, I definitely subscribe to the theory that all journalists are unavoidably advocates, whether they like it or not, contra recent criticisms of the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald. It's the same with academics or politcians or really anyone making any argument: you necessarily choose some points to incorporate and others to leave out.
But as always, there can be too much of a good thing, and journalists who become too deeply and transparently attached to one particular set of subjects in their stories risk compromising the objectivity of their reporting and thus their credibility (though again, perfect/absolute objectivity is impossible).
So what I enjoyed most about Mr. Gillis's piece was that it was a fair piece, somewhere between neutral and positive, because instead of holding forth himself, Mr. Gillis largely lets activists themselves tell their own stories and perspectives. He highlights the movement's invocation of divestment's successful history as a tactic against apartheid South Africa and even invokes President Obama's history with divestment activism (for full coverage see this awesome post by EAC's own Mary Schellentrager). He lays out the depth and breadth of the movement and how it has leaped from U.S. college campuses to other community institutions and even to other countries, a basic fact about the campaign that many other outlets aren't putting in their stories. And perhaps most importantly, he doesn't give any credence to the overly simplistic criticisms of the divestment movement that are too often purveyed by journalists, particularly regarding its direct economic impact (or lack thereof). He just cites the perspectives of campaigners themselves to reiterate what many have been saying all along: that the main point of and power in the divestment campaign is political.
Finally, I also think that, whatever one thinks of President Obama, the analysis of Obama's divestment mention as a plea for help is largely spot on and is in accordance with what the president told two dozen youth climate leaders when he met with them two years ago, just before Power Shift 2011. Mr. Gillis's bottom line is correct: he's the one in office, but we have to provide the people power and the political will necessary to push him or any other public official to do the right thing. Our politicians and our climate both need a "mass political movement pushing for stronger action."
I'd love to hear y'all's thoughts on the fantasy team and especially on Mr. Gillis's divestment piece, regarding what was said and what was left unsaid.