The New York Times will close its environment desk in the next few weeks and assign its seven reporters and two editors to other departments. The positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor are being eliminated.
No decision has been made about the fate of the Green Blog, which is edited from the environment desk.
“It wasn’t a decision we made lightly,” said Dean Baquet, the paper’s managing editor for news operations. “To both me and Jill [Abramson, executive editor], coverage of the environment is what separates the New York Times from other papers. We devote a lot of resources to it, now more than ever. We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter.”
On Dec. 3 the Times announced that it was offering buyouts to 30 newsroom managers in an effort to reduce newsroom expenses. But Baquet said the decision to dismantle the environment desk wasn’t linked to budgetary concerns and that no one is expected to lose his or her job.
Instead, Baquet said the change was prompted by the shifting interdisciplinary landscape of news reporting. When the desk was created in early 2009, the environmental beat was largely seen as “singular and isolated,” he said. It was pre-fracking and pre-economic collapse. But today, environmental stories are “partly business, economic, national or local, among other subjects,” Baquet said. “They are more complex. We need to have people working on the different desks that can cover different parts of the story.”
The environmental reporters were told of the decision on Wednesday. Baquet said he will meet with each of them to discuss their next assignments and the future of their beats. No decision has been made about the fate of the Green Blog, the online site for the Times’ daily coverage of energy and environment news.