“We run fairly detailed analyses on what stories are the most popular; what stories are being read the most; and what types of people are interested in them,” Braun told me. “Climate was just such the dominant issue in terms of popularity. It wasn’t even close.”
Given that demand, E&E Publishing opened single-reporter bureaus in San Francisco last fall, and in New York last month. The company also has stringers in Europe, but Braun hopes to open a fulltime bureau in either London or Brussels and, after that, somewhere in Asia-perhaps Beijing, Hong Kong, or Singapore. Braun is sending a team to cover the summer Olympics in China and scout out permanent locations at the same time.
Says Fialka of the national and international approach:
To do this story, you can’t not do that … Given the nature of the problem and the global interest in this now, I don’t see this as the latest green fad. There are major economic players that are looking at their plans for the next twenty-five years - what kind of power plants to build, which products and cars; how we minimize our use of petroleum. There’s a national security issue there that’s gotten a lot of airtime in Washington. There are big technology questions, consumer issues, health issues, and insurance issues. I’ve been covering energy and the environment for twelve years and I can’t think of such a cluster of things covering the whole stage; it’s not just one corner - it’s pervasive.
Actually pulling off the global presence that Braun and Fialka envision is somewhat more complicated. Less than ten percent of E&E’s revenue comes from advertising, according to Braun, and the rest is subscription-generated. “Some of this has to be pay as you go,” he said. Yet in its first three weeks of publication, ClimateWire seems to be living up to the high standards of its sister publications at E&E. Notable pieces include one by Fialka about water disputes along the U.S./Mexican border that threaten to draw in Canada, too; one about the so-called (but underreported) “safety valve” clause in current cap-and-trade legislation; one analyzing whether or not record investment in “cleantech” can revive the ailing American economy; and one about the nation’s fragile power grid.
Though E&E’s editors have considered it, Braun said, “Our goal isn’t to write for a mass-market audience. We’re covering a lot of incremental stuff, it’s a lot of minutiae; it’s stuff that’s very important for people who are lobbying these issues and following these issues-the regulators and the legislators who are dealing with it; it’s really not very important or very interesting to the man on the street-some of the stuff we do is, but not the bulk of it.” Braun’s business model notwithstanding, ClimateWire and the rest of the E&E suite are an excellent source of environmental news that many general readers may find interesting, especially as struggling outlets in the mainstream media lose the tools to dig deeper into green issues.