Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources

Professional Mentoring

In American newsrooms, mentoring used to be a strong tradition. Accomplished, unselfish veterans willingly coached, critiqued and inspired younger and less experienced journalists, thereby sustaining from one generation to the next the essential habits and standards of the craft. In recent decades, as such coaching and nurturing practices have waned, the overall quality of American journalism has declined.

The decline of mentoring is especially troublesome for journalists who cover natural resources and the environment. This beat comes with extra layers of complexity and context—economic, scientific, legal, technological, regulatory, political, historical, cultural and ethical. Environment-news issues themselves have been simmering or smoldering, often for decades, and they are likely to persist for a long time to come.

To support the journalists who have participated in our Institutes, IJNR has developed a program of structured and sustained mentoring. If you would like to participate as a Mentor or Protégé, please email Dave Spratt at or call 406.273.1906.

IJNR Criteria for Assessing Quality of Coverage

In working with its Protégés, IJNR Mentors use the following criteria to assess the quality of news stories:

Accuracy

• Do the stories describe and explain significant issues accurately?

Fairness

• Does the journalist consistently provide a range of worthy viewpoints in the stories?

• Does the journalist acknowledge credible evidence contrary to the story's main point?

Relevance

• Are stories on these issues presented in ways that are clearly significant, relevant and interesting to the audience?

Context

• Do the stories provide sufficient context (historic, scientific, economic, political, legal or cultural) to help audiences reach sound conclusions and judgments?

Depth

• Do stories go beyond routine events and predictable quotes to reflect thorough explanation and analysis?

• Do the stories cite relevant historical roots of current developments, issues and trends?

• Do the stories examine scope, consequences, results and broader implications?

Effectiveness

• Do the stories provide a useful basis for building public awareness of issues or trends?

Substance

• Do the stories refrain from superficial or trivial portrayal of complex, serious topics?