“These big picture stories have a longer shelf life than the more immediate ones,” Seideman explained when asked how the magazine planned its special report, “and one of the reasons that we ran Justin’s dispatches is that, although some of them were dated, they were sort of a historical record of what he was seeing at the time, and we thought that contrasted well with the long-view pieces.”

Indeed they do. Like Williams, however, Nobel wrestled with how he would break away from the pack. Based on input from his editors, he surmised that they wanted “color sketches of off-the-beaten-path subjects,” and decided to apply the logic he uses for his blog, The Absurd Adventurer, for which he sits in single locations for extended amounts of time in order to observe various goings on.

“I still made calls on many stories and interviewed experts at the front of the issues, but the germ of each post was this extended observation from the field,” Nobel explained via e-mail. “I sought situations that would lead to colorful scenes that might be missed in your typical newsy oil spill story. I spent time with a tiny tribe of American Indians living in marshes that were soon to be oiled and I spent a whole day in a truck stop cafeteria in Port Fourchon, a bustling oil port with a sort of sci-fi feel to it, talking to truckers who delivered parts to the rigs. The blog created the ideal venue for this type of observational writing.”

Nobel wasn’t the only one blogging for Audubon, however, and the society’s network proved to be useful for more than access and information.

“One of the cool things we discovered is that some of our scientists and environmentalists down in the Gulf could write well and actually take some decent pictures, so we had them blog, too,” Seideman said. “It was really a good opportunity to have several views expressed on the website.” (The corpus of Audubon’s spill related posts can be found here.)

Moreover, the magazine’s work in the Gulf is not over, according to Seideman. The November-December issue will contain a feature about the thousands of Audubon volunteers who have been lending a hand there. It will also contain a news item from Nobel, titled “Now Comes the Hard Part,” about long-term restoration efforts along the Gulf.

“I think most of the media, except for maybe the local media, are probably gone now, but we’re trying to step into that void because this is our beat,” Seideman said. “We want to continue this and I think we’ll be doing a lot more stories down the road. This is our niche we have to fill, and people expect it.”

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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.