Not all series can be so ambitiously far-flung, of course, but that doesn’t make them any less worthwhile or effective. The Des Moines Register, for example, didn’t send any reporters to Greenland for its ongoing series on “How climate change could affect Iowa.” The paper created a landing page on its Web site that lists all its related articles, but the real focus and beauty of this package is an absolutely stunning set of interactive graphics that cover everything from the basics of climate science to Iowa’s climate and weather to energy efficiency measures being implemented across the United States. One of the greatest impediments to better public understanding of global warming is poor information retention. Our fast-paced news cycle doesn’t help that, so, ultimately, the great advantage of the Register’s encyclopedic database is not only that it’s locally-oriented, but that readers can refer to it again and again.
Another noteworthy series is “Alaska’s Changing Climate,” published by the Daily News Miner in Fairbanks. Located just south of the Arctic Circle, the News Miner didn’t have to send reporters very far to see warming’s effect on sea ice, permafrost, boreal forests, coastal erosion, fish, wildlife, and local communities. The package included at least seven articles by Stefan Milkowski and four photo galleries published last July. Though it hasn’t been updated since, Alaska is the United States’ bellwether state for climate, and one hopes that the News Miner will make this an ongoing project.
Finally, a local climate series by the Alpena News, at the northern tip of Michigan, is worth mentioning. The paper is the smallest of those mentioned here, so the package is not as grand as the others—not much traveling, and no fancy photos or graphics. With seven solid articles it is no less impressive, however, and stands out all the more because no other paper in Michigan (of which there are many larger than the Alpena News) seems to have put forward such a dedicated effort. Five of the articles cover the state’s efforts to be a clean energy leader and address lingering concerns about fossil fuels and tourism; the other two are good, “news-you-can-use” articles about improving energy conservation. The series’ only real shortcoming is that, unlike most others, its constituent parts are not grouped together on a single landing page or even linked to one another. But it’s worth reading, so here are parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven.
Henry, who assembled the Toledo Blade’s package, has been impressed by the large number of climate series coming from small and medium-sized papers. But many, he worries, are a “carryover” from 2007 and readers may see fewer of them in coming years. “I was one of three judges for the projects category of the Society of Environmental Journalist’s award contest this year,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Of sixty-some entries we judged, probably two-thirds were either directly about climate or a major climate issue, like the nation’s reliance on coal and/or China’s emerging use of coal. A bunch of papers, magazines, et al, pegged their projects to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 reports, which was no surprise. At least it didn’t fizzle out after Gore and the IPCC took home their awards.”
Hopefully, they won’t fizzle out all. And I’m sure there are more local climate series out there that I’ve missed. I would love to hear about all of them (preferably with links) in the comments section, so please chime in.