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I became a better reporter by getting personal about climate change

I became a better reporter by getting personal about climate change


Covering Climate NowThis story was published in collaboration by the Los Angeles Times Climate Coverage NowA global journalism collaboration that strengthens coverage of the climate story.

TCalifornia’s third weekend in August 2020 was chaotic. The third weekend of August 2020 was a busy time for California. There were wildfires, smoke filled the air, power shortages forced state officials into rolling blackouts. This meant that hundreds upon thousands of homes had no air-conditioning during a heat wave. I was scrambling to cover the aftermath that Monday, writing about Blaming one state agency for anotherfor the power shortage. I ran to report the story on clean energy technologies the next day. California needs your support to keep the lights onI am here to help in times of despair. I was physically and mentally exhausted by Wednesday. I also wrote about it.

In that week’s edition of Boiling PointThe e-mail newsletter I wrote for the Los Angeles TimesI discussed climate despairI shared my strategies for dealing with it in the hope that others who feel similarly fatalistic might find it helpful. I described what it was like for me personally living through those hellish few days, and offered some Jewish wisdom from an ancient rabbi that had helped me keep perspective: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

The next summer, during another period of intense heat and fire, I hiked Wyoming’s Teton Crest Trail. The mountain peaks were obscured at times by wildfire smoke, but the landscape as a whole—brimming with alpine lakes, deep canyons, and wildlife—helped remind me why a safer planet is worth fighting for. Boiling Point’s next edition will feature me once again. We urged readers to not lose heart, writing, “The future is not preordained. It’s not written. We can still stem the climate crisis.”

There was a time in my life when I worried that words like this could damage my credibility as journalist. Here, I was expressing both my own fears and my desire to find climate solutions. Wouldn’t that make me look biased? Wouldn’t I be better off sticking to the facts, explaining the scientific consensus in a traditional, third-person newspaper voice, and leaving the politics to climate activists?

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