Backgrounders

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Issue Backgrounders are a monthly SEJournal Online feature to help journalists better cover emerging environmental issues, especially challenging or under-reported topics. Each Issue Backgrounder focuses on a specific environmental topic, offering key questions, basic answers, source contacts and other resources. For questions and comments, or to suggest future Issue Backgrounders, email the SEJournal Backgrounder editor Joseph A. Davis at jdavis@sej.org.

 

October 31, 2018

  • The vulnerability of critical U.S. infrastructure to cyberattacks has been a growing worry for years, as electric utilities, drinking water systems, chemical plants, nuclear plants, pipelines and more are the target of a burgeoning cadre of hackers. But for environmental and other journalists focused on the story, another problem has emerged: The secrecy that has long been part of the U.S. cybersecurity policy. In this comprehensive Backgrounder, SEJournal takes a look at the risk, the response and the resources to let reporters go deep on cyber warfare as an energy and environment story.

October 3, 2018

  • Millions of Americans are served by private rather than public water systems. And while that may be helpful in the case of the tens of thousands of smaller systems that lack key resources, it also raises controversial questions about privatization, as well as about what’s best to insure drinking water safety in a post-Flint era. The latest Backgrounder explains this complex issue, considers the most critical issues and offers resources to report the story in your area.

September 5, 2018

  • Could U.S. infrastructure go from being a saver of lives to a bringer of disaster? Yes, warns our latest Issue Backgrounder, which looks at vulnerabilities for our drinking water supply, sewage systems, flood control, power grids, pipelines, refineries and even hospitals. Are environmental reporters paying enough attention? Here’s why they should, with suggestions on how to go about it.

June 20, 2018

  • Chemical plant explosions make for fiery headlines, but then the reporting tends to flame out. The latest Backgrounder spells out why environmental journalists should stay vigilant on chemical safety coverage, with news hooks and ingredients for a potent mix of advance stories.

May 23, 2018

  • Big environmental issues such as the use of pesticides, labelling of organic foods and the preservation of farmland and water are central to a huge farm bill lurching its way through the nation’s legislature, hamstrung by partisan politics. Our latest Backgrounder sets up the landscape for your coverage.

April 25, 2018

  • The estuaries that proliferate across the United States can be hard to define — and protect. But their role in a healthy environment makes them a crucial focus of good reporting. The latest Issue Backgrounder explores their importance, the many challenges they face, and how to track the agencies and programs meant to protect them.

March 28, 2018

  • Health risks from unsafe drinking water afflict many, not only around the world, but in the United States too, especially the poor, ethnic minorities and those in remote rural areas. The latest Issue Backgrounder looks at this undercovered environmental justice story, and offers ideas and resources for how reporters can cover it.

February 21, 2018

  • Infrastructure is much in the news these days, with battles over politics and funding yielding stories for environment reporters. In play are a Trump plan, who gets to pick projects, who pays and much more. But in an election year, how likely are infrastructure plans to move forward? The backstory, with angles for environment and energy, plus what to watch for in 2018, in our Backgrounder on infrastructure.

January 23, 2018

January 9, 2018

  • The 2018 elections may prove highly consequential for environment and energy policy, possibly slowing or even reversing the Trump-GOP deregulatory agenda. The latest Issue Backgrounder helps reporters frame the choices voters face, including environmental justice and offshore drilling.

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