James Bruggers is not just a journalist, he's a warrior in the movement to protect our planet from the scourge of man.
He’s one of a number of virtual superheroes from the left, armed with their magic blogs and Tweeting I-Phones with which to help beat back the demons and demigods who attempting to destroy our planet.
He’s more powerful because he’s got ‘local motive.’
“I cover a beat – the environment – that has taken huge hits at newspapers across the United States,” Bruggers said about himself in formal letter to the University of Louisville which hosted a symposium in early October. “As far as I know, I am the last one of my kind working at a newspaper in Kentucky.”
Bruggers said that “everything is different now” in the print industry where he’s been writing for the Kentucky-based Courier-Journal, there in the heart of black coal country, since studying journalism, forestry and environmental studies at the University of Montana over 10 years ago. “Newspapers are no longer just newspapers,” Bruggers wrote in his letter, explaining how his newspaper is “increasingly focusing our news delivery online, through smart phones and through social networking, including Facebook and Twitter.”
And able to leap tall buildings in a single bound too!
Bruggers’ is a fairly standard response from many reporters today, particularly those in the freelance game. Many newsroom journalists are losing their jobs to attrition, cutbacks and corporate merger, while some of the ancillary op-ed writers, sports personalities and ‘bloggers’ have been kept around to keep a local slant on things – inexpensively at that - while newsrooms are being thoroughly decimated. In response, many longtime columnists have seen a burgeoning opportunity – in years past, their articles were significantly scrutinized, regularly cut, sliced, diced and edited down by experienced copy editors, managing editors and even fully engaged publishers who understood the difference between opinion pieces and balanced reports.
Today’s ‘beat’ freelancers have little editorial scrutiny in what they provide, as most copy ‘chiefs’ are too focused on keeping Section One copy flowing through rapidly shrinking paper real estate to worry about the Section Three sport reporters and Section Five environmental ‘beat’ reporters. Since this new breed of reporter has been given carte blanche ability to post their stories directly to personal blogs and Twitter accounts without submitting through the proper chain of command, “fair and balanced” has been effectively replaced in the 21st Century by “quick and cheap.” It’s ‘fast food nation’ for the rip and read set, as print professionals, once born, bred and trained in newsroom nerve centers have been removed from their post, while pure subject matter experts – the anointed ones – have been given the front door key to the newspaper by being allowed uber access to blog site, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Clark Kent sadly was laid off from the downtown office. But don’t despair, James Brugger is still blogging to the world from his home office in Kentucky (“he’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!”)
“Science is only part of what I do. Environmental journalism often involves a variety of disciplines – for example, politics, religion, economics and science,” Bruggers explained to the Kentucky academia in his recent blog titled, appropriately enough, Covering Science and the Environment Between the Tweets.
“Journalism professors I know are producing a whole new generation of specialized science and environmental journalists who are taking an entrepreneurial approach to their careers,” Bruggers wrote in his Jerry McGuireish treatise to the symposium, adding “And membership numbers in the Society of Environmental Journalists, which I helped lead for 13 years, remain strong.”
The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) met this week in Miami, where Bruggers and other anointed bloggers and Tweeters kept active by reporting in 140-charcter blips from the SEJ panel events. One blogger Imelda Albano, President of Phil Network of Environmental Journalists, Inc. said of the event via the SEJ Twitter feed, “an excellent venue for env't journalists from West and South to learn from each other in making our society a sustainable one.”
Meanwhile Emilia Askari of the Detroit Free Press Tweets “want $ fr knight fndtn to fund your news venutre? talk to knight biz consultant ben wirz @ entrepreneurs pitchfest sat 9 a.m.” That’s Tweet speak for “hey folks, if you need some venture capital to fund your news reporting you can meet with representatives who helped fund this event, the James L. Knight Foundation, and they’ll explain how to get you some money to report to the masses.”
Earlier, Askari posted how “the Internet gives back power given that was taken away by the mass media, just by its massiveness.”
Or perhaps it’s a need for balance that has held the movement back.
Nicole Lampe, Senior Program Director for a non-profit communications group called U.S. Resource Media shared one of the more popular Tweets of the day from University of Washington scientist and Pew Fellowship award winner Dr. P. Dee Boersma who said “I don't want balanced reporting when it comes to science.”
Welcome to the environmental movement, where journalists meet to discuss ways of funding their cause, leading the charge to ensuring a more sustainable world through reliance on political, religious, economic and scientific reporting, free from the confines of traditional media scrutiny.
It should be noted that the Miami conference of environmental journalists was hosted by the University of Miami with financial assistance from groups including John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Other SEJ financial supporters include the Everglades Foundation, Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, Turner Family Foundation, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment and Environmental Defense Fund.
Not every Tweeting member of the SEJ was strictly a journalist mind you. One blogger named Clint Wilder of the research and advisory firm Clean Edge, Inc. noted the striking similarities between Occupy Wall Street and environmental movements, Tweeting they “share fighting ‘the imposition of large risks by the very few on the very many.’" At its website, Wilder’s Clean Edge, Inc. describes itself as a company which “companies, investors, and governments understand and profit from clean technologies.”
Freelance journalist Cristina Santiestevan of Virginia is one of the first Tweeters to announce the opening comments of NOAA Fisheries Chief Dr. Lubchenco in a panel discussion on October 21, noting "Catch shares work. They end overfishing.” Posting under the online handle of Redbugmedia, Santiestevan describes how she is “Listening to Jane Lubchenco describe her job, ‘I fight for fishermen, and for fish.’”
Caroline Behringer, Media Specialist at World Wildlife Fund adds “Lubchenco uses Slurpies to explain catch shares to science reporters,” to which Jaime Jennings, Publicity Manager at Island Press responded “awesome!”
Behringer adds “Now contraceptives enter the Slurpy analogy to explain catch shares.”
"Who knew that birth control and 7-11 would come up in a fisheries panel," noted Juliet Eilperin, moderator of the SEJ panel called Opening Plenary — Fish Fight, which featured Dr. Lubchenco, her brother-in-law Dr. Steve Gaines, Pew Fellowship recipient Dr. Daniel Pauly, along with commercial fishing representative Nils Stolpe and the Recreational Fishing Alliance’s (RFA) Jim Donofrio representing the voice of the angling community.
“Here we go…” Wilder posts after Donofrio steps up and calls NOAA a 'job killer' explaining how the recreational fishing industry is 'getting regulated out of existence.'
“We're tripping over red snapper in Florida, but it's very restricted. Why? Lack of good science,” Tweeted Forbes clean tech blogger and freelance writer/editor Amy Westervelt of Donofrio’s comments.
“We have plenty of fish, so says one panelists,” a blogger called the Apocadocs Tweets sarcastically of Donofrio’s comments, asking wryly, “really?”
Freelancer Allie Wilkinson posts a quote from Lubchenco that seems to back Donofrio’s scientific analysis, noting “We simply do not have the resources to do stock assessments for every single fishery, every single year.”
Behringer then posts the theoretical question for Twitter followers to view, “Are marine protected areas good for commercial fisheries,” promptly answering herself in the affirmative in a Tweet directed at the fishermen in the front of the room, “Hey, panelists, the answer's ‘yes!’"
Lampe Tweets Gaines as saying “we've protected less than 1% of ocean, 10 to 15% of land,” noting how “MPA’s harbor fish as they breed and grow, helping nearby fisheries.”
The fishing representatives on the panel try to point out how notable scientific gaps in reporting through NOAA have left fishermen suffering not from science but by lack of science; they then explain to SEJ attendees that fish don’t exist upon every square inch of the ocean, and the 5% to 15% of oceans that some environmental groups would like to make off-limits to fishermen through creation of no access, no take marine reserves are actually the prime areas of oceans where fish congregate around productive structure and habitat.
Look, up in the sky….
“Fisheries lobbyist demonstrating he's completing unreasonable, opposes any restrictions on commercial fishing,” Tweets Brad Johnson, ThinkProgress Green Editor at the Center for American Progress.
“Big science crush on Daniel Pauly,” Westervelt Tweets.
“Me too,” gushes Jamie Jennings of Island Press.
Westervelt reports that Dr. Pauly is “Keeping it real with NOAA and fishermen on fish fight panel.”
Word to your mother.
Pew Environment Group’s Dave Bard says “fixing overfishing benefits everyone.” His former coworker from Pew now employed as Dr. Lubchenco handler and media spokesperson through NOAA Fisheries said of the Fish Fight panel, “a whole lot of agreeing going on. When it comes to catch shares, MPAs, science, etc, design matters most.”
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Cassandra Profita of Oregon Public Broadcasting posed the Tweeted question, “Catch shares: Best economic, ecological fish mgmt or xposing fish to 'corporate greed', 'speculation' like subprime mortgages?”
Blogger Michael Casey of Dubai, a sports and environmental reporter who writes mainly about water shortages and the sport of cricket in the Middle East quoted Donofrio as saying of catch shares "is huge political issue, not as simple as drinking from one Slurpy cup."
DC-based Matt Farrauto, a self-professed “political hack who’s gone full panda,” said “All this fish talk makes me want a slurpee.”
“Don't assume, just because I'm yawning, that I'm disinterested,” Farrauto said later.
Pittsburgh’s Jeanne Clark describes herself as “Doing my best to piss off the right wing for over 60 years,” but was unable to attend this year’s event in Miami but Tweeted a “Big shout out to my peeps at #SEJMiami. Raise lotsa $$$!”
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a trial balloon!
“Which I were there,” Clark adds, Tweeting “Too cold & not enough drinking here.”
David E. Guggenheim, himself a marine scientist and Senior Fellow at the Ocean Foundation Tweeted from the conference a quote from Daniel Pauly that “Many fisheries in the world are afloat only because of subsidies."
Guggenheim went on to quote Pauly as saying how “fishers” (that’s politically correct 21st Century green speak for fisherman or fishermen) are fishing for jelly fish, and monk fish.
The Courier-Journal’s Bruggers Tweets back, “Jellyfish? Really? Ick.”
Hmm, kryptonite and crystal jellies do seem a lot alike.
Following the fisheries panel, Farrauto Tweets “Heading to the Balmoral Room where he will fight the Balrog,” a fictional middle-earth demonic being created by JRR Tolkien in his science fiction epic, Lord of the Rings.
Even superheroes have to break for lunch.
Hey James, watch out for those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!