White edited ProPublica’s award-winning natural gas coverage and helped edit its article about a New Orleans hospital stranded by flooding after Hurricane Katrina, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010. Her strategy brings SolveClimate, now InsideClimate, even farther from its early days as a content pressure cooker. With a full time staff of six, going deeper is, initially, going to mean publishing less.
“Every time I tell a reporter to take another day on a story, it’s going to cause us a slight problem,” White said in an interview. Without updating content frequently, a site can risk looking like vacant web property, losing traffic, and disappearing from search engines and Twitter feeds. “Then, you’re out of the loop.”
Yet White is confident that slowing down publication is the right direction for InsideClimate. “You can keep feeding the site, feeding the beast, and that’s okay,” she said, “but are you really giving your readers what is truly valuable to them?”
If quality over quantity is the goal, InsideClimate’s latest article, the only one since Labor Day, is an indication that it’s off to a good start. The 1,500-word piece is about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. It forwent the hot angle about recent, star-studded arrests at protests outside the White House. Instead, it explained how advocates and opponents are “girding” for the final battle over the pipeline’s approval, examining various legal and political factors that might influence the outcome.
Sassoon feels like White’s changes will bring the site in the right and necessary direction. “Were not trying to be the most popular site and turn a dollar for investors and attract advertisers,” he said. “We’re trying to cover an issue well, and I think that’s an area that more foundations are stepping into.”
Hopefully, Sassoon is right, especially since he wants to double InsideClimate News’s staff over the next few years from six people to twelve. Investigative reporting is time consuming and costly by nature, but it beats derivative journalism any day (even if that’s not every day).