“There’s not a lot of news in this area—we’re watching glaciers melting—so there isn’t an urgency to get things into the paper right away,” she said, in what was hopefully meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reply, to which Sullivan added: “Integration into the main desks can be a help with that.”

Obviously, you could debate whether the pod or no-pod strategy is better until you’re blue in the face, and not get anywhere. The Times’s brass decided to on the latter, and it’s not like the environment is being singled out unfairly. The paper has also broken up education and “how we live” pods in recent months, and there’s a media pod whose fate is uncertain.

“Even if there was no fiscal pressure to do so, we would be making some structural changes in the newsroom to balance our precious journalistic resources,” executive editor Jill Abramson, who declined to comment for this article, wrote in a memo to the staff. “In order to expand digitally and internationally in the exciting ways we have planned, it is natural to reshape our contours.”

Perhaps, but then it all comes down to editorial commitment, but here, too, there are reasons to be concerned.

Though untroubled about the demise of the pod, Revkin conceded that he was dismayed by other factors. First, there is the fact that the newsroom is undergoing it second round of major staff reductions in three years, offering buyouts until January 24, after which it may have to resort to layoffs. Second, as New York Magazine revealed on Sunday, Kramon is headed to San Francisco to become the new technology editor.

That’s unfortunate because he has probably been the paper’s staunchest advocate for environmental coverage. Asked who on the masthead would carry the torch when he moves to the West Coast in mid-Spring, Kramon said, “Abramson, Baquet, and countless other journalists here, recognize the importance of this subject to New York Times readers (as well as the planet).”

He requested only that the Times be given a chance to prove its enduring commitment, and that it will have. But as Sullivan, the public editor, pointed out, “Keeping environmental reporting strong won’t be easy.”


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