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Florida newsrooms band together to cover the effects of climate change

LUIS SANTANA | Times Redington Beach would be entirely flooded by a 2-foot rise in sea level, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A group of Florida newsrooms have banded together to cover climate change.
Published Jun. 25

The media ecosystem has changed in more ways than we can count.

And with fewer journalists working in the United States these days, newsrooms have to find new ways to do things.

That brings me to an important announcement: A group of Florida newsrooms have banded together to cover climate change. The Tampa Bay Times will be joining the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media to produce stories about the issue. Other media partners are sure to come aboard. The initial partners have already begun to share stories and ideas.

Topics the media partnership will explore include the dangers of increasingly destructive hurricanes, the effects on native species and the impacts to the economy. We'll also probe what lies ahead for coastal towns and cities jeopardized by rising sea levels.

The content sharing will work like this: When we write a story, we will offer it to our partners in the media network. In most cases, our partners will be able to publish simultaneously. And we'll all reciprocate, meaning readers of the Times should be seeing more stories on the subject from reporters around the state.

In addition to sharing stories, we've agreed to look for joint projects that have statewide reach and scope. We also are exploring ways to build this out further by including university journalism programs and nonprofit news organizations.

A decade ago, a partnership like this would have seemed improbable. Newsrooms saw each other as rivals. We still compete – often fiercely. But a new pragmatism has taken hold in newsrooms across the country. We simply can't cover the same ground that we once could. And truth be told, we're not vying for the same readers. Draw the Tampa Bay Times and the Orlando Sentinel in a Venn diagram, for instance, and the overlap of subscribers for both news organizations would be tiny.

The Times has long recognized the benefits of collaboration. We combined with the Miami Herald 11 years ago to form a joint bureau covering the statehouse. That partnership has been an important success. Instead of a two-person Tallahassee bureau made up of Times reporters Emily Mahoney and Lawrence Mower, our combined bureau doubles our ability to find and tell stories because it includes the Herald's Mary Ellen Klas and Elizabeth Koh. We share other political stories with the Herald. The Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau stands as one of the earliest partnerships forged by any media organizations. Scores of others have followed.

The new media network focused on climate change builds off award-winning efforts last year by opinion editors at the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and WLRN Public Media to launch "The Invading Sea."

In March, I ran into Julie Anderson, the editor overseeing both the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Mindy Marques, who runs the Miami Herald. We started talking about expanding the initiative to more newsrooms across Florida. And we wanted to move beyond opinions and editorials that were the hallmark of "The Invading Sea" project.

"The network will expand the initiative to the entire state, lead with a news reporting focus and broaden the topic to other climate change effects beyond rising seas," said Marques, the Herald's publisher and president.

Florida is ground zero for the effects of sea rise. It may be the most important subject of our time. Our new partnership represents just one creative way we can keep readers better informed on topics that matter.

Mark Katches can be reached at 727-893-8441 or follow him on Twitter at @markkatches.

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