[T]he reason they [have axed it] is almost certainly that the blog wasn’t getting much traffic (and, therefore, not generating much advertising revenue). So a more constructive question is: Why do readers—even the well-educated, left-leaning readers of the Times—find environmental news so boring? Is it because we all write about it badly? Is it something inherent in the subject itself? Is it because most people think we don’t really have any big environmental problems anymore aside from climate change? Or is it because it’s just such a damn bummer to read endlessly about all the stuff we should stop doing because, somehow, it will end up destroying a rain forest somewhere?
First off, if this is the real reason the Times axed the blog, that’s quite sad, isn’t it? One would hope what mattered was only that the newspaper made money taken as a whole. Within that framework, I hoped and thoroughly expected that cross-subsidisation would go on, so that the popular fashion pages, say, would help fund and keep running the less well-read environmental pages that matter. If the owners of The Guardian in Britain adopted this philosophy, the whole paper would vanish. At the moment, its losses are only capped by transferring profits across from another more profitable magazine – Autotrader. The Guardian itself is a total sap on profits. And yet, it’s an important institution. The day journalism is exclusively governed by financial forces is a dangerous one. We’d end up with no investigative reporting that keeps the wheels of democracy rolling. We’d just have The Sun.
With regards to why green news is not particularly popular though, it strikes me as self-evident that people just find it boring. I’ve confessed to this myself. It took a long time for me to appreciate its importance. Because green issues are inherently so macro in their implications, we much prefer to opt for the individual interest stories. But surely what would maintain The Times’s status as a great newspaper is if it didn’t bow down and have its content determined by our demand. What we want is to be told what matters. This isn’t a market stall. It’s deliberative democracy, and the fight to keep climate change at the top of the agenda gets even more desperate every time these decisions are made.
(Hat Tip: The Dish).