By: Bess Winston, Managing Director, Advocom Group

Early this month, I attended a panel at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. featuring reporters who are members of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) to explore how journalists will be covering environmental and energy stories in 2017.

The panel included Seth Borenstein, the science writer at AP, Bloomberg’s water reporter, the energy reporter from Politico and others.


The future will not look like the past

Reporting in this space will be laser focused on how President Trump is dismantling and reversing environmental regulations and Obama legacy actions, including the Clean Power Plan. The story isn’t around the look forward but rather the roll backward. There is growing recognition that there will be no Trump climate policy or clean energy program.

Coverage will acknowledge the déjà vu on the science of climate change

Reporters are expecting a complete 180 and the rejection of established science. This story angle will permeate their coverage of everything from the Paris agreement to the reversals on Clean Water.

Anything not directly affecting the U.S. will not get covered

Environmental stories that are global in nature will not be priorities. Reporters will have bigger fish to fry covering expected court actions at the state level and civil litigation to counter actions around the Keystone XL and other domestic policies.

Paris Agreement is moving forward, with or without the U.S. because Paris is not a binding agreement

The U.S. can ignore it or take actions to withdraw with no immediate consequences. The impacts may come if member countries counter with trade sanctions or use U.S. abdication of the agreements to negotiate on other matters.


Now more than ever, move your stories and story angles to the business pages

Lead with the ROI. Corporate environmental commitments and actions are more likely to get coverage when positioned around business value and economic benefits.

But maintain relationships with environmental journalists

Reporters will be looking for third party data and cost/benefit analysis on a variety of issues, especially as it relates to coverage around the science of climate change. Companies can lead with soft advocacy and education in this space and get recognition for it.