Sustainability, new media closely linked, experts say

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Monday, February 2, 2009
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With digital and eco-friendly lifestyles becoming increasingly popular, people are turning to new media to go green, and so are journalists, experts said.

The use of new media was discussed Friday at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication in downtown Phoenix during a roundtable conversation titled “Brave Green World: Environmental Journalism in Emerging New Media.”

ASU is the first school in the nation to offer a sustainability school of its kind, said Jonathan Fink, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability.

“What do we mean by sustainability?” Fink asked the audience of about 40 people. His answer: “Improving on today’s quality of life.”

With more universities beginning to offer such majors and more people becoming involved in living green, many are turning to sources other than print newspapers to read their news — mainly the Internet, the experts said.

Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at ASU, addressed journalists losing their jobs to the new media field, and discussed they are making the switch from print to online now.

“We’re not in a world in an abundance of resources anymore,” Gillmor said, adding that this is one reason why new media is becoming more popular.

And the boost of new media outlets is not just happening in Pheonix but everywhere, said Marla Cone, editor in chief at Environmental Health News.

Cone, who worked for 15 years as the senior environmental writer at The Los Angeles Times, said she saw the new media field as an opportunity.

“I didn’t want to leave behind what I had started,” Cone said of her 30 years in print journalism, though she working for an online media outlet has given her the opportunity to write about whatever she wants about the environment, she said.

Fellow print journalist turned online writer Douglas Fischer agreed and is now editor of www.DailyClimate.org.

He said his job and the rise of new media channels give “incredible potential to reinvent journalism on the Web.”

One attendee of the discussion, sustainability graduate student Colin Tetreault, said he believes that moving to new media should be a priority.

“I think it’s imperative that journalists take time to fundamentally examine the delivery and content of new media as the market is shifting dramatically,” Tetreault said.

And though many journalists participate in and are excited about new media, others believe it is hard to make the switch, Gillmor said.

But he thinks it’s not as hard as it may seem.

“Start a blog,” he said. “Learning about being on the Web and digital forms [of journalism] is about just doing it.”

Reach the reporter at abigail.gilmore@asu.edu.