Established News is not Covering the Top Story of Our Time
by JD Sullivan
(Grand Rapids, MI, USA)
Green Action News Business Manager, JD Sullivan
I was invited to share about what's going on at Green Action News on the Climate Change Guide. To turn the tables on myself, I interviewed myself in a Q & A format.
What are you doing with Green Action News?
That’s a really big question to answer. I guess the place to start is with our mission statement, which is:
“Green Action News is a news publication for people who are concerned about and active in creating positive change for the environment.”
When I went to the Great Lakes Regional Energy Expo in Ludington, MI in early 2013, I was surprised to find I was the only reporter at the event.
There were mayors from around the state there so you’d think there’d be some other news coverage, but there wasn’t. This happened again to our astonishment when we covered Bill McKibben speaking at Western Michigan University.
It happens at protests, it happens at community workshops. The established media is ignoring what is in my estimation, the most vital concern of our time. So the first thing we are doing is we are showing up and covering the work of people who are creating positive change for the environment.
It is important to me that their stories are told and that more people become aware and inspired to be involved in the movement.
Who is behind Green Action News?
What are your backgrounds?
I no longer view myself as being partisan, but I do have a background in partisan politics - political organizing, a couple of runs for local office and communications consultant for a few campaigns.
When I went back to college and in the Journalism/Mass Communication program at Olivet College, my partisanship was confronted. When I graduated, I began producing PaleoRadio.us, hosted by Jeremiah Bannister whom I met at Olivet College.
I was itching to do something in environmental news because the environment has always been a passion of mine, so once PaleoRadio discontinued on-air production I began to pursue it.
Through PaleoRadio, I met some folks involved in the Occupy Movement and we had several of them on the show as guests. Word of mouth, connections, one thing led to another and Jeremiah and I were asked to speak about media relations at an Occupy retreat. That’s where I met Joe Fletcher.
Joe has a background in activism. More than I can ever lay claim too. He volunteered a few times at PaleoRadio as a call screener and a friendship between us developed.
In August 2013, he decided to partner up with me on GreenActionNews. That’s when it really began to take off. Joe caught up with Jill Stein at NatGat in Kalamazoo, MI, and I could see right away that he is awesome at interviewing people, plus his work on the social media is fantastic.
We have a handful of Contributing Correspondents from around the world. We’ve been pretty selective in our recruitment and I am quite impressed with what we’ve been able to achieve thus far with the people who have come on board. Bios of our Contributing Correspondents can be found on our About
page on our web site.
What stories do you cover with Green Action News?
People are at the heart of our stories. We want to share the stories of environmental activists, especially those who are putting their lives on the front lines in civil disobedience and direct action.
I don’t know how it was in past social movements, but getting the story at this level can be a real challenge. We are interested in the work of citizen lobbyists and what is taking place at the policy level as well as organizations making a difference at the local level - whether it’s a beach clean-up project or rain barrel workshop, or an effort to develop community gardens.
We cover a variety of categories including wildlife, fracking, tar sands, water, climate, etc. We also want to tell the stories of people who are impacted by environmental concerns. And we have a magazine format section called ‘Strivin2BeGreen’ which is on inspiring people with simple things they can do to integrate a green lifestyle into their lives.
You mentioned an interview Joe had with Jill Stein.
Is Green Action News affiliated with the Green Party?
We get that question often enough that it is in our FAQs on the web site. We are not affiliated with any political party or candidate. The use of the term ‘green’ simply is in relation to that of environmentalism, eco-friendliness, sustainability, and nature.
What challenges have you encountered in making Green Action News happen?
We have accomplished a great deal considering the challenges we are facing as an emerging independent media organization.
We get a positive reception everywhere we go. What is unique when it comes to reporting on what’s happening to the environment on the local level is that it is relevant to a global audience.
Funding is a challenge. Both Joe and I have been devoting full-time hours to the project while operating on a shoestring budget. And we definitely need to recruit more correspondents to cover more local areas.
How are you funded?
We want to be able to offer our contributors and editors with fair sustainable compensation and not to be on such a tight budget. We expect the bulk of our support to come from individuals.
We are developing a crowdfund and people can sign up for our newsletter so they can be informed of the launch so we can get off to a strong start on it. We also have membership subscription program that allows individuals to support us.
What do you look for in your recruitment efforts for correspondents?
We look for people who can commit to reporting with journalistic integrity and people who have a passion for environmental concerns who have the skill and capability to cover stories in their local area.
Do you consider yourselves to be environmental activists?
On the current media landscape, we’re somewhat of media activists simply by covering the story nobody in the established media wants to cover. But we strive to do this with quality reporting and integrity. So that’s a good question, are we?
You mentioned that you want to foster a deeper conversation on positive change for the environment.
There are events, issues and actions that take place on the local level. We want to report on what’s happening at the local level all over the Earth and find a way to tie them together.
‘Connecting the dots’ is too cliche and doesn’t really get at it. We’re looking at how we can foster a conversation that draws on information from multiple interconnected sources and perspectives.
Why is it important to get into this conversation?
What happens in seemingly isolated places is treated as such, especially in the news media, but also in our culture and in ourselves if we’re not being mindful.
We’ve got ‘INHIMBY’ going on - ‘It’s not happening in my backyard yet’ kind of mentality. It splits us up; it creates the illusion that there is no comprehensive cause or solution to it.
We need to have a global conversation about it that recognizes that what is taking place in one place does have an impact on everywhere.
You believe the media is largely to blame for the ‘INHIMBY’ mentality?
In large part, yes. I have yet to see a reporter challenge health officials to drink the water on camera. Maybe that sounds like a stunt, I don’t know, but at its foundation, the news industry has a role in holding officials accountable to the people. This is not happening very much.
Much of the media industry is entangled with corporate interests that prevent the coverage that needs to occur. An oil spill in North Dakota is treated with no follow up on the company’s record on spills and regulation.
The follow up story is something like some celebrity getting arrested for a DUI or box office results of a movie which incidentally is produced by a company which owns the news organization.
But it’s more than the media. You’ve got where some energy companies are mostly owned by banks. You’ve got pensions and college endowments invested in oil companies. You’ve got short-term thinking politicians being bought, sold, and told to shut up. And you have some siloism going on within parts of the movement.
You’ve also got people around the world facing tough economic situations who do not realize that our economics are tied to unsustainable practices.
And then you’ve got climate disruption exacerbating it all getting us even further into a short-term reactionary mode.
We need to be having a conversation that gets around all of this and leads to even greater positive and lasting change for our sustainable future. That is the kind of conversation we are working to be a part of and to foster in what we’re doing at Green Action News.
How can people get involved with Green Action News?
The first thing I would encourage people to do is to join our newsletter to stay informed and get updated.
Subscribers have a chance to win a bumper sticker from us each week. We’ve got a crowdfund coming up and we'll be announcing it to our newsletter subscribers when we're ready to launch so we can have a strong start.
We are recruiting more writers, the application for that is in our Careers section on our web site, and of course I'd encourage people to "LIKE" & "Follow" us, all those links are on our website at GreenActionNews.net
So how did I do? Feel free to visit our contact page to share your feedback and to ask any other questions you think I should have asked as well.