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E-M:/ Great Lakes journalism takes a hit


A hugely important story that hurts some of the best environmental journalism in the Great Lakes region is going on right now largely unreported. On top of already several years of massive buyouts at individual newspapers, the Booth chain in Michigan apparently on Wednesday made a chainwide buyout offer to employees with as little as five years experience or more. There is also a significant reorganization centralizing what has traditionally been local news functions. From individual reporters and a few blog posts it looks like the chain's entire copy desk functions will be in Grand Rapids.
   Here's the environmental fallout: Booth has a long tradition of exceptionally strong environmental coverage. Even in the recent years of massive downsizing, this chain has recognized the beat's importance when it allocated increasingly scant resources. Part of this is a function of audience - this group of papers serves a readership living near or strongly interested in the Great Lakes. Much of it is a function of hiring excellent reporters committed to the beat. At one time the chain had full or part time reporters covering the environment from Washington, Lansing and the dailies in Ann Arbor, Bay City, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Flint, Jackson, Kalamazoo and Saginaw. Even the chain's Detroit business bureau would take a shot at an occasional business-related environmental story.
   That effort has eroded because of huge changes in industry structure and technology reported in agonizing detail elsewhere and with fallout that is certainly broader than the environment beat.
  But here's what ticks me off: As far as I can tell, the story is largely unreported in mainstream media. To get your news on this issue try http://tinyurl.com/6p3ksy or try http://tinyurl.com/6bad29 or try http://tinyurl.com/5ebgar
  Better yet, report what you know on Twitter.  To those of you new to Twitter, just go to twitter.com and sign up for a free account. If you have news of the Booth reorganization you can "tweet"  it if you include in the post:  #booth.
  That way every Twitter user who searches (the search link is at the bottom of the page) on #booth will get all the posts regarding this issue.
   You get 140 characters to a post. That focuses you wonderfully. But if you have more to say you can "tweet" repeatedly.
   For people who are old twitter hands, your followers will obviously get your reports. But including the #booth hashtag will let every twitter user find your #booth reports whether they follow you or not.


David Poulson
Associate Director
Knight Center for Environmental Journalism
Michigan State University
517 432 5417