Not-so-hidden Resources for Busy Environmental Journalists

July 15, 2013

Reporter's Toolbox

By EDITORS OF THE SEJOURNAL

 When SEJ decided last year to survey members about which SEJ programs they value most, a funny thing happened – we discovered that many of the programs most popular among some members aren’t even on the radar screen for others. In fact, in com- ments at the end of the survey, some members expressed a desire for programs ... that SEJ already offers.

We also heard from many members who seemed in responding to the survey to express doubt about how much SEJ can help them. For example:

“I don’t have time to take advantage of a lot of SEJ offerings because I’m just too busy at work and completely overloaded with incoming information, so I left several of the above categories blank as I don’t have an opinion.”

But, hey! Let SEJ help you with that lack of time. After reviewing the survey results, the editors of SEJournal thought we’d use this issue’s Reporter’s Toolbox to give you a rundown of SEJ offerings you may not be aware of, or may not have sampled. Contrary to the comment above, we’ve found that taking advantage of SEJ’s offerings is actually a way to save yourself work, imbue your stories with depth, and make you a more effective and efficient journalist.

Thanks so much to board members Ashley Ahearn and Jeff Burnside and SEJ staffers Jeanne Scanlon and Beth Parke for fashioning and carrying out the survey.

Here is a partial list of the efforts SEJ is making to ensure that you are the best-equipped, most-informed journalist possible:

SEJ-Talk: Hard to believe, because this is one of SEJ’s most valuable and enduring services, but some members aren’t aware of the instant and far-reaching help available from fellow members. Let’s say you’re working on a daily breaker (or just starting research) on some arcane subject, e.g. pesticides and bees; the energy values of coal versus biomass versus natural gas; or how Superfund cancer risks are calculated. Post a question to the list and usually within an hour or so (sometimes much less) you’ll start to get responses. They come from all kinds of SEJers — from graybeards who have covered the topic for years to new members who have had a pass at it recently. You’ll get perspective and context and — possibly — sources and phone numbers and people who’d like to argue about the issue. (Feel free to ignore the latter or engage as you see fit.) Lots goes on in this space — debates, job notices, condolences, collective hand-wringing/plan-making about what’s happening with our craft, and on and on. This is where a lot of the day-to-day and week-to-week help SEJ provides can be had. (Potential downside: This is a *very* active list, and it can be mailbox-clogging if you’re not careful. We’ve found that using gmail, which groups strings together, makes this a lot less frustrating to subscribe to.) Search topics at http://www.sej.org/listserv-signup-archives#archives. (With member login, of course.)

Other SEJ listservs: Most of the other listservs are not nearly as active but also have lots to offer, including SEJ-Freelance, SEJ-Diversity and others. More at http://www.sej.org/listserv-signup-archives#archives

EJToday: Sure, there are lots of environmental-news roundups, but for our money there is only one to go to if you want the top 10 really important EJ stories of the day. That’s the EJToday list produced by SEJ’s Joe Davis. If you want a broad and smart and nuanced look at the top EJ stories of the day, this is for you. You can find the list here: http://www.sej.org/headlines/list

Mentoring: If you’re a journalist who is just starting out, who is new to environmental journalism or who just wants some backstopping, this is definitely for you. Think about seeking help here, but also remember that you can give back by being a mentor yourself. Connect here: http://www.sej.org/initiatives/mentor-program/overview

SEJ.org: Don’t forget the truly amazing congregation of deep background on the SEJ website, including in-depth information and contacts on most any environmental topic you may be covering. Start by searching sej.org.

Annual conference: Most people do know about this. It’s a huge opportunity. If you haven’t been to one, you really should make it a point to get to Chattanooga this October. Huge, huge, huge opportunity. More here: http://www.sej.org/initiatives/sej-annual-conferences/overview

Make sure you’re getting the most out of your membership. Check http://www.sej.org/sej-member-benefits for a complete list of member benefits.


* From the quarterly newsletter SEJournal, Summer 2013. Each new issue of SEJournal is available to members and subscribers only; find subscription information here or learn how to join SEJ. Past issues are archived for the public here.