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Issue Backgrounder is a monthly SEJournal Online feature to help journalists better cover emerging environmental issues, especially challenging or under-reported 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, 2013

April 15, 2013

  • More than one observer has compared covering energy to the folk tale about the blind men who try to describe an elephant, and end up shouting at each other because they’ve each grasped a different part of the beast and believe their portion represents the whole thing. Freelancer Jennifer Weeks reports.

January 15, 2013

September 15, 2012

April 15, 2012

October 15, 2011

July 15, 2011

  • Here's a sampling of coverage of recent extreme weather disasters, with particular focus on a few of the many enterprise stories that emanated from four clusters of events — the tsunami-caused crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, drought and wildfires in Texas, death-dealing tornadoes in the Southeast and massive flooding in the Mississippi River system.

  • Everything from the social media’s importance to the need for a detailed disaster plan — Robert A. Thomas, professor and director of the Center for Environmental Communication, School of Mass Communication at Loyola University in New Orleans, outlines 17 take-away lessons for journalists.

April 15, 2011