Matching the Scenery

Matching the Scenery: Journalism’s Duty to the American West is an intriguing study from the Wallace Stegner Initiative at the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources in Missoula, MT. Written by journalists, for journalists, it paints the broad picture of how western newspapers are failing in their duty to help their readers understand growth, development and the environment, and lays out some recommendations for how they could do better.

Here are their chapter intros:

>1 Journalism’s Duty
>Daily newspapers in the North American West have an obligation to explain the large-scale changes in population, economy and environment that are transforming the character of the region and its communities.

>2 The Tumultuous West
>The transformation under way throughout the North American West is unmatched in pace, intensity and sheer magnitude. Keeping up with this phenomenon has become a serious challenge for the West’s daily newspapers.

>3 Inadequate Resources
>A large majority of Western dailies need to commit greater resources to gathering news about growth, development and the environment.

>4 Valuable Veterans
>Competent veteran reporters have the skills, experience, news judgment and sources to cover environment issues effectively. Yet at many dailies in the West, high rates of turnover on the beat are accepted as unavoidable.

>5 Stale Formulas
>Reporters and editors who shape environment news coverage of the vast majority of Western dailies rely too heavily on stale, predictable formulas of storytelling that usually shed more heat than light.

>6 Reporting and Bias
>A journalist’s personal attitudes should never distort coverage, but neither should readers mistake a reporter’s honest, independent judgment for bias.

>7 Profits and Paychecks
Corporate-chain owners of Western newspapers insist on high profit margins. For meeting financial targets, publishers and their corporate bosses reap handsome rewards, but often at the expense of the quality of coverage.

>8 Leaving the Family
>Corporate chains have bought more than 100 of the West’s 285 dailies since 1994, leaving about 30 still owned by families or independents.

>9 Understanding Geographies
>At most daily newspapers in the West, coverage of growth, development and the environment should be grounded in deeper understanding of natural traits and conditions of the places that these papers are supposed to serve.

>10 Choices for Newsrooms
>Daily newspapers in the North American West have the freedom to choose how to allocate people, time, space and other resources to coverage of growth, development and the environment. At most Western dailies, reallocating these resources could result in better coverage.