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Issue Backgrounder is a monthly SEJournal Online column to help journalists better cover emerging environmental issues, especially challenging or underreported topics. Each 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 Backgrounder Editor Joseph A. Davis at

July 15, 2011

April 15, 2011

January 15, 2011

October 15, 2010

  • For journalists covering major energy- and environment-related stories and natural disasters, the visually gushing BP Gulf of Mexico oil leak easily supplanted climate change and other national stories in the steadily shrinking news hole. Yet there are striking parallels between the sudden and in-your-face Gulf BP spill and the incremental and nonlinear climate change issue.

July 15, 2010

January 15, 2010

  • The digital age of environmental journalism has brought with it an ugly underbelly characterized by increasingly bitter personal exchanges and accusations and a sucking-up of countless hours of productive reporting time and effort. How reporters handle these distractions may shape how well the American public understands, or doesn't understand, the climate challenge they and future generations will face.

October 15, 2009

  • For purely journalistic reasons, reporters could periodically write about those things they had decided not to cover: Their rationale and providing links, even, for those wanting to know more. They can thereby open the doors to their own internal news decision-making, let the public see in, all in the interest of their better understanding the news-making process.