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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

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.

July 15, 2009

  • Making fuel from cellulose? Will it be the fuel of the future and how is the U.S. system promoting or haring it? New political carrots and sticks are leading the biofuels industry into a second generation phase, and many critics of the biofuels industry think it's long overdue. The question for the industry, though, is whether the science is ready to scale up.

May 1, 2009