Fortunately, a few small papers went the extra mile. An article that appeared in The Virginian-Pilot, for example, did an excellent job. The piece, which appeared on March 22, interviewed a Virginia-North Carolina migratory bird biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and discussed several local bird species listed as threatened in the study: “When looking specifically at the northeastern North Carolina region - which may not apply to the species nationally - declines have been seen in the Eastern meadow lark, Henslow’s sparrow, gull bill tern, piping plover, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and cerulean warbler,” reporter Catherine Kozak wrote. One of the major causes, her piece concluded, is the destruction of coastal shrubs and maritime forests from urban development projects in the Outer Banks.
Another good example of local reportage appeared in South Carolina’s Beaufort Gazette. For a March 23 article, reporter Liz Mitchell interviewed conservationists from the state’s Coastal Conservation League and the Hilton Head Island Audubon Society. The piece also briefly discusses the controversy surrounding wind turbines off South Carolina’s coast, and their impact on migratory birds.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming harder and harder for small media outlets, especially newspapers, to devote resources to such projects. As staffs and budgets shrink, or publications simply fold, we will undoubtedly see fewer stories about issues such as the health of local ecosystems and wildlife populations. That is a shame because, according to a 2006 Pew Research Center report, roughly nine out of ten people who read newspapers read local and community newspapers. And if they’re not covering backyard conservation issues, who will?