As the Knight fellowship comes to a close, I prepare to return to the world of freelancing. I couldn’t be more excited that one of the first projects I’ll be working on is with InsideClimate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment. You can help make it happen. ICN is fundraising, but I’m also eager to hear from you about what’s happening in your American towns that are far from the coasts and the homes of mainstream news outlets. Check out the full description below and then please feel free to contact me via Twitter (@meeratweets) or email.
Your Guide to Finding Middle Ground
Few issues expose the nation’s current ideological divide more starkly than climate change, and we need your support to plunge headfirst into the abyss. We don’t know what we will find there. That’s exactly why we want to send a seasoned and talented writer, Meera Subramanian, on an extended reporting assignment to explore this unknown territory.
She will be seeking out everyday encounters with ordinary people in ordinary places; exploring the common ground of environmental concern over the changing climate; and listening for the common language of true conversation. We recently caught up with Meera to find out what she is thinking about before she embarks on her journey this summer.
InsideClimate: Why are you excited about the Middle Ground project?
Meera: America has always been a country at odds with itself, but the political divide has become a yawning chasm with the 2016 election. Yet we all share many of the same fundamental concerns, whether we are red, blue, purple, and/or green. We want meaningful work and just compensation for it. We want lives that get better over time, not worse. We want health for ourselves and our families. The climate, meanwhile, carries on, steadily warming under our influence and affecting the ability of Americans to achieve these desires for themselves.Finding Middle Ground is a chance to leap over the political divide.
InsideClimate: What will you be looking for?
Meera: Stories of people’s lived lives, not the check-box answers of big data and algorithms that neglect hope, fear, middle-of-the-night dreams. I’ll be talking to average Americans from all walks of life in the regions where reporters don’t roam nearly enough, the in-between places that are news deserts in spite of the people that inhabit them — farmers, coal miners, wind turbine installers, church-goers, fathers, mothers. I’ll be looking to spend extended time in a handful of places across the country. The primary objective: listen.
InsideClimate: What are the most important influences on your writing and how do they manifest in your work?
Meera: I find myself returning again and again to the idea of what makes a place home for people. Except for the less than 1 percent of Americans who are native, all the rest of us have come from elsewhere, recently or long ago. We’ve found new places and made them our own. We define our landscapes even as they define us. And then they change, and climate change is driving that transformation as forests burn, coasts erode and farm wells run dry. I’m drawn to the complexity of how humans respond to these moments.
InsideClimate: Do you know where you’ll go first?
Meera: My first destination will be the Southern Appalachians of the Deep South. I’m not sure what I’ll find, but come back soon and find out!
David Poulson says
It’s an exciting project. I wish you well and look forward to reading your dispatches. It could help produce a much more accurate picture.
One quibble: It is discouraging to hear middle American communities described as news deserts. These in-between places are anything but deserts for news.
News happens throughout these places. It’s committed by the people who live there. It certainly deeply affects them. And it is often intensely covered by unheralded local reporters.
Coastal America is not the center of the universe. Just because the people who live in D.C., L.A., New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco are oblivious doesn’t make the rest of the country a news desert.
These are thoughtful, intelligent inhabitants of vital news communities.
Ignorance of them does not make them news deserts.
absolutely agree, David. By news deserts, i mean the lack of news outlets and – as you say – the lack of places to publish by the “unheralded local reporters” who live there. There IS news. There ARE stories. The domination of the press by the coasts is what we need to get away from. I’m hoping to help to do that, even just a bit.
Christine Heinrichs says
Sounds great, Meera! When will you be in California? I’m out here on the central coast, where last year we rescued a record number of starving sea lion pups. Their mothers’ food prey, seeking colder waters, migrated too far offshore. The highway is being re-routed inland, because the coastline is crumbling and the waves slosh over it at high tide. Local agriculture is now dominated by wine grapes, a thirsty crop that is draining the aquifers. Some people’s well levels have dropped 100 feet. Highway 1 through Big Sur has been closed for months, may not reopen for years, after the rainy winter that followed five years of drought washed out a major bridge and caused a major slide that continues to send boulders down. Central California has issues!
Hi Christine — yes, I’ve been hearing about California. On my list, though focusing on heartland most likely for this project.