After two-and-a-half years and 940 posts as a news blog, Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth site will be moving to the Opinion section of The New York Times’s Web site, according to an announcement he posted Wednesday afternoon.
Revkin, who was a staff reporter at the paper from 1995 until he took a buyout at the end of December, launched the environment and sustainability blog in October 2007 and has continued writing it since leaving daily reporting.
“One reason I started Dot Earth is that it’s hard to find space in the newspaper for these other issues,” he said in December 2008, after winning the John Chancellor Award for his roughly twenty-plus years dedicated to climate coverage. “So the blog created a space to keep sustained focus on them.”
Since leaving his staff job, however, Revkin—who has accepted a position as a “senior fellow for environmental understanding” at Pace University—has expressed a desire to move even farther beyond the constraints of traditional news reporting.
“I no longer see journalism, on its own, as the single best use of my remaining days,” he wrote upon taking the Times’s buyout offer in December. “In a world of shrinking specialized journalism, direct outreach will be more vital than ever.”
“There have increasingly been times when I’ve felt that I wanted to give my own straight view of things,” he added in an interview on Wednesday. Nonetheless, Dot Earth won’t look drastically different now that it’s headed to the Opinion section. In his post announcing the move, Revkin wrote:
Don’t expect momentous changes. I’m not going to suddenly be revealed as an ardent liberal or conservative.
I am an advocate, for sure — for reality.
I’ll try to maintain the discipline to be “caustically honest” (to steal a phrase used by a climate scientist in a story of mine on tipping points last year) in weighing the issues and opportunities confronting humanity as its astonishing 200-years-and-counting growth spurt crests.
As a freelance blogger, I will say what I think in ways I could not when I was a Times reporter. I’ll do this in a space occupied by other ex-Times reporters, including Timothy Egan and Linda Greenhouse.
One other facet of Dot Earth won’t change: the blog will remain home to a dynamic, sometimes exhausting exchange of reader comment. Many blogs focusing on the environment seem mainly focused on creating a comfort zone for like-minded citizens. Dot Earth will continue to be a place for the expression of all pooints of view — as long as those views are expressed in civil and constructive ways.
Revkin said that after the leaving his staff job at the Times he and editors had been in open discussion about how to sustain a freelance relationship, and that a “combination of factors” led to the decision to move from news to Opinion.
“One is history,” he said. “There really aren’t any freelance contributors with a daily product on the news side, at least not that I know of. And there have been awkward situation where I’ve held off writing on the blog because I knew a reporter was working on a story and I didn’t get in their way.”
There are some drawbacks to the new arrangement, however.
“I won’t be able to contribute to Science Times or other news sections as I might have, so that gives me mixed feelings,” Revkin said. “But I will be able to contribute to the magazine or Book Review off and on if there’s something that comes up.”
On balance, Revkin said he is happy about the decision to re-categorize Dot Earth and that he sees a need for a “firewall” between news and opinion. The line between the two has grown fuzzier over the years, he added, and a number of reporters now express opinions on their blogs in ways that would make him feel uncomfortable.
“All these labels are kind of strange these days,” he said. “I still see Dot Earth mainly as interrogatory—exploring questions, not giving you my answer. That’s not going to change that much because I think anyone who tells you they know the answer on some of these complex issues we face is not being particularly honest.”
Still, Revkin is looking forward to weighing in with his personal views when he believes they are called for.
“What does feel good is that, in this new position, I’ll be able to say what I think when I really feel that I’ve got a firm concept of how we might get out of our energy bind,” he said. “Or, when looking at climate legislation, I’ll be able to say what I think looks reasonable and what I think looks specious or political.”