Journalism's Duty to the American West
The Stegner Initiative
is distributing its first report, an assessment of the coverage
efforts and challenges of the West's 285 daily newspapers. This
assessment is a distillation of more than two years of research
by a team of independent journalists.
THE REPORT >>
Stegner Award Winners
September 20, 2003
WINNERS LIST >>
MEET THE JURY >>
MEET THE STEGNER TEAM >>
The Stegner Initiative's Board
of Governors adopted these journalistic criteria
for assessing newsroom effort:
- Accuracy and
coverage showing that the newsroom reports the region's
significant environmental issues clearly, factually and without
- Salience and
coverage showing that the newsroom selects environmental stories
that are clearly important and relevant to the audience.
- Frequency and
coverage showing that the newsroom addresses the region's
significant environmental issues and events often and makes
a concerted effort to "stay on top" of these issues
as they evolve.
- Prominence and
coverage showing that the newsroom uses sound judgment to report
and display environmental stories in proportion to their salience
and relevance while refraining from sensational, superficial,
trivial and marginal treatment of important environmental news.
coverage showing that the newsroom provides a credible range
of views in complex stories about environmental issues and
that the newsroom gives these issues sufficient context to
help audiences increase their awareness and reach responsible
|The histories, cultures and communities of the vast
region known as the North American West are richly complex and diverse.
They also share many common roots, patterns and themes. These cultures
and comunities are now experiencing rapid, profound and often stressful
Citizens of the West need a deeper shared understanding of these roots,
histories, patterns and themes. They also need a greater appreciation of
that are under way -- and to the contexts, consequences and implications of these
changes. Western newsrooms are public trusts that have a responsibility to meet
I said in print that the remaining Western wilderness is the geography
of hope, and I have written, believing what I wrote, that the
West at large is hope's native home, the youngest and freshest
regions, magnificently endowed and with the chance to become something
unprecedented and unmatched in the world
I was shaped
by the West and have lived most of a long life in it, and
nothing would gratify me more than to see it, in all its subregions
and subcultures, both prosperous and environmentally healthy,
with a civilization to match its scenery…."
But when I
am thinking instead of the throbbing, I remember what history
and experience have taught me about the West's past, and what
my senses tell me about the West's present, and I become more
cautious about the West's future. Too often, when they have
been prosperous, the Western states have been prosperous at
the expense of their fragile environment, and their civilization
has too often mined and degraded the natural scene while drawing
most of its quality from it.
So I amend
my enthusiasm, I begin to quibble and qualify, I say, yes,
the West is hope's native home, but there are varieties and
degrees of hope and wrong kinds, in excessive amounts, go with
human failure and environmental damage as boom goes with bust."
- Wallace Stegner
"Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and
Writing in the West," 1992
The Stegner Initiative's preliminary
research shows that many Western newsrooms don't cover environment issues in
depth. Too often, these newsrooms refrain from questioning fundamental assumptions
growth and development
and the long-term ecological consequences of these trends.
Since 1995, IJNR has been helping to increase the competence of individual journalists
all across North America -- the reporters, assignment editors, bureau chiefs,
story editors and newsroom managers who determine, shape and produce coverage
of natural resources, economic development, population growth and environment.
Working with individual journalists is the first (and still ongoing) component
of IJNR's strategy to improve North American journalism. The Wallace Stegner
Initiative expands this strategy by evaluating coverage efforts constructively
and by offering on-site coaching assistance to encourage improved coverage.
The work of IJNR's Stegner Initiative is supported by a generous, multi-year
grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Additional support has been
provided by the Fred Gellert Family Foundation.