Our commitment to environmental journalism continues
Journalism is not for the thin-skinned
Background is in order
Thirty years and six months ago, give or take a few days, Society of Environmental Journalists founder Jim Detjen called me, described his concept for starting the organization, asked me to join, and asked me for a list of other journalists working for small, specialized, and/or rural media who might be prospects for membership.
Jim emphasized that he hoped to attract as diverse a membership as possible, not just people from mainstream mass audience daily newspapers & electronic media, and from mainstream academia, where he already had extensive contacts.
Long list of names
Tightened membership rules excluded diversity
Now a word about Beth
Police officer, animal control officer
And a word about me
Social skills & behaviors
Animals in China
From: meera <firstname.lastname@example.org>Subject: SEJ-TalkDate: August 31, 2020 at 1:10:06 PM PDTTo: email@example.comCc: Meaghan Parker <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Schleifstein, Mark” <Mschleifstein@theadvocate.com>, Michael Kodas <email@example.com>Dear Merritt and Beth,Hello, how are you? Executive Director Meaghan Parker and I are writing in response to both a formal complaint and observed posts on SEJ-Talk under the threads “NAHJ Urges End to ‘Minorities’ Label” and “Racism, blah, blah, blah.” Your statements therein are a clear violation of the Membership Agreement and Policies, which state that “Differences of opinion should not drift into rudeness, condescension and disrespect. Avoid creating or contributing to flame wars.” At times, your statements have veered into racially and ethnically charged statements that border on harassment.You have been a long-standing members of SEJ, and we value your contributions, but this behavior is unacceptable. You must abide by Membership Agreement and Policies, and the Anti-Harassment Policy in order to engage with the SEJ community.We are suspending your access to SEJ listservs for the next three months, to be effective immediately, and reinstated November 30. We look forward to your return to the shared resource of SEJ-Talk at that point to join in the conversation about the practice of environmental journalism and how to cover stories on the beat.You have the right to appeal this decision to the full Executive Committee.Sincerely,~Meera Subramaniancc: Meaghan Parker, Mark Schleifstein, Michael Kodas~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Journalist | Author | Society of Environmental Journalists Board Presidentwww.meerasub.org | @meeratweets | +1.541.337.5392
A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis, from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka
The posts in question, are below (as best we can determine. We did not post anything entitled “NAHJ Urges End to ‘Minorities’ Label”.)
The time has come for Beth & me to shake the shit associated with SEJ off of our feet and move on, anticipating that if our health permits, we will continue to be practicing environmental journalism long after SEJ has imploded.
[SEJ-TALK:] Racism, blah blah blah
Among the most universal traits of young whippersnappers, journalists or otherwise, is an idealistic tendency to become excessively enamored of abstract theories espoused originally by academics, while simultaneously undervaluing the experience of elders.
A few of us here are old enough to remember that racial identity was frequently capitalized back in the segregation era, and much more recently abroad, in the apartheid era, thereby making racial identity seemingly as important as personal identity.
Capitalizing racial identity was an inherently racist practice then, was abolished by the same generation of journalists whose work helped to end segregation here & apartheid there, & returning to it is an inherently racist practice now, whether or not the young whippersnappers out there have the savvy to understand why.
Our job is to report, not pre-judge
Quite a few of the list participants here who are most zealous about purging journalism of this & that which they perceive as being part of an “-ism” might do well to consider to what extent their own attitudes are part of yet another common “-ism,” agism, which manifests itself most often in young whippersnappers assuming that us old farts don’t know what we are talking about.
Incidentally, some of us old farts have also been reporting practically daily about subjects and sources of other ethnicities, nationalities, etc. for decades, frequently exchanging information with fellow journalists of just about every other ethnicity, nationality, linguistic group, etc., while some of the young whippersnappers have been more-or-less in an academic bubble, as students, interns, and freelances in university towns, which contributes to the naivete inherent in many of their favorite theoretical constructs.
Merritt & Beth
Culture & structure of news organizations
This is really just Journalism 1-A, but Beth & I continually run into situations where reporters for major mainstream media presume that if they have gotten the perspective of one person with a dog, for instance, they have the perspective of the whole community on animals.
How people describe themselves
<as journalists we should listen to how people describe themselves. That’s part of our doing a good job.>
Listen, yes, but call people what they want to be called?
That all depends on the context. There are a lot of white supremacists out there who would prefer to be described as patriots. Gangsters would like to be called “men of honor.” Terrorists want to be called “freedom fighters.” Dictators prefer to be described as presidents.
Ain’t going to happen on our beat.
We call people by the term that most accurately describes who they are, whether they like it or not.
That’s what’s doing a good job.
Merritt & Beth
Karen Davis says
While I don’t fully comprehend the issues with the Society of Environmental Journalists, I do appreciate the dedicated professional history and background of the editors of Animals 24-7, Merritt and Beth. For many years before the launch of Animals 24-7, I read Merritt’s print-newspaper publication. Animal People, from which I learned so much.
In my early days in the Animal Rights movement, in the 1980s, I read Merritt’s fascinating biographical essay published in Between the Species: A Journal of Ethics where I first published my essay about “the little chicken who started it all, – Viva,the Chicken Hen.”
“Us guys” have all been around the block more than once and are still here fighting the good fight, win or lose, for animals and animal liberation. I take a dim-to-the-point-of-lightless view of human nature and progress generally, but being active for animals, and knowing others with unshakable dedication like Beth and Merritt, sustain what theologian Paul Tillich called the Courage to Be In Spite of Non-Being and what I call Keeping Faith versus having faith.
Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns. http://www.upc-online.org
Dr. Will Tuttle says
Thank you to you both for your much-needed journalism in an era when journalism seems to be disappearing into promoting corruption and supporting whoever can buy the news narratives they want people to believe. You are a precious resource!
Jamaka Petzak says
A fascinating article. Thanking you and sharing to socials, with appreciation!
Mary Finelli says
It isn’t apparent what specifically the problem was with SEJ, and I certainly haven’t read all you’ve written over your career, but in the decades of reading your publications I’ve found you to be considerate and respectful, even when responding to comments that many would consider insulting.
In this day and age, when people are taking offense from even the use of a period at the end of a sentence (as was reported on National Public Radio this weekend), I appreciate writing that is accurate and candid. You needn’t apologize for it, nor should you need to defend it.