Reporting on the Environment: A study of science or power?

Mark Schapiro
17 March 2009

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Why you should listen

The Obama administration came into office stating that there would be a return to scientific principles in its application of environmental laws. The Bush administration said the same thing when it came into office eight years before. Both have access to the same scientific evidence, but the results look likely to be very different.

Schapiro, a veteran environmental journalist and Editorial Director of the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, explores the intersection between two very different forces: the inherent uncertainties of the scientific method and the demand for clarity by those in power. Whose science? And what informs the government’s willingness to respond to it? It is ultimately these questions which confront every environmental reporter. Schapiro discusses where the real drama lies in environmental journalism: in the hidden interests that lie behind how science is understood and acted upon. He also considers the implications of the US’ long retreat from global environmental leadership, what may be coming from the Obama administration, and what other countries’ approach to this critical dynamic can tell us about the potency, and utility, of scientific evidence.

Mark Shapiro is the Editorial Director of the Center for Investigative Reporting, a California-based non-profit group of journalists producing stories for all media. He has been an investigative journalist for more than two decades and has built an award-winning track record with a focus on environmental and international affairs. His work has appeared in publications such as Harper's, The Nation, Mother Jones, and The Atlantic Monthly; on television, as a correspondent for NOW with Bill Moyers and FRONTLINE/World; and on radio, as a correspondent for Marketplace. His cover story in December for The Nation, “New Power for ‘Old Europe,’” and series for public radio’s Marketplace, “Brussels Clout,” attracted wide interest and served as the springboard for an expanded investigation into the growing influence of the European Union insetting international environment, health and safety regulations. The resulting book, Exposed, was published by Chelsea Green Publishing in September 2007. His investigation for Frontline/World into the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker and the maritime system that made it possible was disseminated widely inside the European Parliament, and received an award from the Society of Environmental Journalists. Mark has worked and lived in and out of Europe for some 20 years, as a reporter and as founding editor of InterNation, a consortium of journalists producing international investigative stories.