“I can’t emphasize enough how much interest in this subject there is among readers,” Goode said. “That story immediately went to the top of the most e-mailed list and stayed there for quite awhile. It’s clear that people are really hungry to hear about this stuff. And that was a story that combined some science, some business, some home, and some lifestyle—it went across the traditional boundaries of news departments.”

Unfortunately, as newsrooms around the country shrink and close, such dedicated focus and coordination is becoming increasingly challenging. When I asked Kramon whether the Times’s reorganization had anything to do with cutting costs, he replied that it is “just the opposite.” He has been agitating for the team for a couple of years and sees it as a “dream come true.”

“We’ve had a lot of other things on our minds, what with the economic meltdown and the two wars,” Kramon said, “so I admire Bill Keller for having the vision to do something like this at this time.”

Indeed, only a handful of papers could even conceive of pulling off such a maneuver. But there is still something to be learned for even the smallest outlets. Most importantly, the Times’s connect-the-dots approach represents the right way to think about and report on the environment—whether that reporting is the work of an individual or a team effort.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.