A wash of Walton family funding to news media is creating echo chambers in environmental journalism, and beyond. Are editorial firewalls up to the task?
November 28, 2011
For years, agriculture and the food system have been critically under-reported subjects in the media. Take for example earlier this year, when Gannett (the parent company of USA Today) laid off Phillip Brasher, one of the last reporters covering agriculture issues in Washington, D.C. Thanks to a public outcry (and in part to reporting here on Civil Eats and elsewhere) he was rehired. However, this made clear that the desire for food reporting is not being sufficiently met by the current media structure.
The Food & Environment Reporting Network, a journalism non-profit for investigative reporting in the area of food, agriculture, and environmental health, which launches operations today, is seeking to reverse this trend. (Full disclosure: I am the Managing Editor and a Founding Director of the project).
“Over the past four decades, coverage of food and agriculture has waned in the mainstream press at the same time as the impact of a more industrialized food system on public health has become increasingly severe,” said Ruth Reichl, editorial board member of the Food & Environment Reporting Network, Editorial Advisor to Gilt Taste, Editor-at-Large at Random House, and former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine. “Without detailed investigations into food and agriculture, our understanding of humanity’s impacts on the environment is incomplete and related policy changes ineffective.”
In its first report, out today in the western magazine High Country News, reporter Stephanie Paige Ogburn investigates a successful citizen movement to halt pollution by New Mexico’s powerful mega-dairy operations. Future reporting will appear in newsmagazines, including The American Prospect and The Nation, as well as major daily newspapers. You can read the current piece here on the Food & Environment Reporting Networks’s Web site, where future reporting will also be archived.
“Our stories will fall under the classic mandate of investigative reporting–to reveal corruption, abuse of power, and exploitation wherever it happens; to expose activities that the powerful work to keep hidden or to explore subjects that are just too complex for the breaking news cycle,” said the Food & Environment Reporting Network’s Editor-in-Chief Samuel Fromartz. “We’ve chosen to focus on food, agriculture, and environmental health specifically because we feel these are under-reported subjects that touch people’s lives every day.”
The Food & Environment Reporting Network’s Board of Directors includes Editor-in-Chief Samuel Fromartz, author, freelance journalist and a former Reuters business editor; Allison Arieff, a contributing columnist for The New York Times, contributing columnist for The Atlantic Cities, and editor of the Urbanist magazine for SPUR (San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association); and Ralph Loglisci, a leading food policy media strategist. Naomi Starkman is the strategic communications adviser to the project. Tom Laskawy is the Executive Director and manages the organization. Former board members Katrina Heron and Naomi Starkman were involved in the organization’s founding and development.
The Food & Environment Reporting Network’s editorial board includes Brian Halweil, editor of Edible East End and co-publisher of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan magazines; Katrina Heron, Editor-at-Large at Newsweek/The Daily Beast and previously Editor-in-Chief of WIRED and a senior editor at The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times magazines; Ruth Reichl Editorial Advisor to Gilt Taste, Editor-at-Large at Random House, and former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine; Elizabeth Royte, author of the critically acclaimed Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash; Bottlemania: How Water Went On Sale and Why We Bought It; and Charles Wilson, the co-author with Eric Schlosser of the number one New York Times children’s bestseller Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food.
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