Role of Media in the Sustainability Debate: Objective or Opinionated?

by Aman Singh Das | November 17, 2010

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The concluding panel at BSR's annual conference was by far the most intriguingly titled: Objective or Opinionated: How the Media Are Shaping the Sustainability Debate. It also had the most potential for controversy, given how much has been written about climate change, the environment, sustainability, etc. The panelists: Brian Dumaine, Senior Editor at Large with Fortune, and Todd Woody, an environmental journalist based out of California, who writes for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Grist among other publications.

While no one nugget of speech stood out as particularly revelatory, both panelists had some distinct observations not only on how the field of journalism is changing, but also on the emergence of what Dumaine called "young, inexperienced reporters and blogs that don’t bother with depth" and the difference between objectivity and balance when it comes to reporting on a subject like sustainability.

Highlights:

Blogs vs. Mainstream?

Woody: "There's an increasing tendency to hear echoes from the blogging world, where they conjecture based on original reporting in mainstream media. But that’s all that is: echoes, not real reporting."

Dumaine: "Climate change is admittedly a hard sell. Then you have thousands of blogs and columns and media covering so much: how do get in? "

Print vs. Web?

Dumaine: "Web journalism does not support enterprise reporting as print journalism does."

Objective vs. Balanced?

Woody: "I don’t believe in objectivity, I believe in balance."

Dumaine: "Balance is tricky. A journalist should really study his topic and come up with a point of view. At Fortune, we call it the "Even so" paragraph. At the end, we strive to do analytical journalism."

Sustainability vs. Profits?

Dumaine: "Wal-Mart isn't pursuing sustainability because they're particularly passionate about climate change but because that will help them make more money. With so much information all over the place, it is really hard to figure out how green a company is. Instead look at what the company is really doing because ultimately they will go where the money is."

Economy vs. Environment?

Dumaine: "For me the question always comes down to bringing the environmental lens to the economic conversation without overwhelming the green aspect."

Woody: "I don’t make a distinction between the economy and the environment."

Previous Posts from BSR 2010:

Would you Stop Buying Apple In the Name of Sustainability?

5 Leadership Traits That Can Lead to Performance With Passion

Filed Under: CSR

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