Gimme Some Lovin’

I started Collide-a-Scape in January 2009, when I was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism ( CEJ). Initially, I envisioned blogging about the Southwest. It was to be a continuation of the energy, ecology, and archaeology stories I had already been writing during the 2000s, for various publications and for Audubon magazine when I was an editor there.

I remember Tom Yulsman, CEJ’s co-director, laughing when I described the Southwestern focus of the blog. Who are you kidding, he said. You’re not going to want to limit yourself.

Heh. I think it took about a week for him to be proved right.

It also didn’t take long for me to embrace the blog and find readers (or them to find me). A few dust-ups soon followed, as I started watchdogging some of the self-appointed watchdogs in the climate community. That morphed into a closer and more sustained examination of the raging climate controversies that still tend to dominate the public discourse.

Over time, I have found these excursions to be the least personally satisfying but the highest traffic-generating posts. That’s problematic. I want to be relevant. I like being part of the daily conversation. That’s a big reason why I’ve continued to blog nearly every day. But if the public conversation on climate change is not advancing to a higher level, then what’s the point? Well, an underlying motivation for me (in terms of climate change) is to probe or point to areas and issues that are not so much discussed. And to do it in as fair a manner as possible.

My approach was first recognized by Michael Lemonick in his 2010 Scientific American profile of Judith Curry, in which he referred to my blog as “militantly evenhanded.” By this, I think he meant that I don’t play favorites. Sure, I have my biases and my appetite for blog warfare sometimes gets the better of me, but in general, I will poke and prod just about anyone, including those in my own fraternity, as I did here last year, when I was dismayed by an unusual arrangement between a non-profit advocacy organization and a publication I have long admired.

Some may give me points for my militant evenhandedness, but not much more than that. In an article for the Fall issue of the Society of Environmental  Journalists newsletter, Bud Ward (a co-founder of the organization and the editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, where I now write a weekly column) surveyed the fast changing journalistic landscape. He discussed some of the new models, partnerships, and individual initiatives that have sprung up in recent years, and mentioned my “self-made brand of independent journalism/blogging” at Collide-a-Scape, and wondered if it was sustainable. Ward captured my situation perfectly:

Without any financing and conducted more or less from his abiding commitment to journalism and science, he [Kloor] recently found himself asked by a prominent national magazine editor if he couldn’t simply continue his site as a “public service.” The implication: Why a need for money in return for his labors.

The comment Ward refers to was made to me in passing at last year’s AAAS conference in Washington, D.C. Some context: This particular editor happened to mention, unsolicited, that he was a fan of my blog. I was flattered but responded, jokingly, that my wife would prefer if such appreciation was rewarded financially. That’s when he laughed and said that what I did was a public service. I know he meant no offense, but I was offended, nonetheless.

Now before going any further, let me acknowledge that many science writers blog for free (or pennies) at various blogging networks. I’m opposed to that on principle. It cheapens the value of professional science writers/journalists and reinforces the expectation that little to no money should be paid for their work-if it appears on a blog. A year ago (at that same AAAS conference), I said this much to a friend/colleague who had just joined one of these blogging networks. Her response to me: Nobody is paying you to blog at your site. Ouch.

At the time, I glossed over this inconvenient fact by saying that at least I wasn’t adding value to another site by providing it with free content. My friend wasn’t impressed with that counter-argument and truth be told, neither was I.

Still, I continued to blog dutifully, as more of my peers (privately) cheered me on. Their plaudits, combined with the satisfaction I derived from blogging, blunted my mounting resentment at the expectation that I soldier on for the public good. (In fairness, let me be the first to admit that I have plenty of detractors who do not share this view.) But by the end of last year, I had resolved to reconcile these conflicting emotions.

Hence the new “donate” button on the right sidebar. I would never expect to make a living off this blog. Far from it. But I also want my endeavors to be acknowledged by more than expressions of appreciation. So thank you for whatever support you may be inclined to give this blog. It will go straight to my new Harley Davidson motorcycle fund.

Seriously, your support will help sustain the upkeep of the blog and my wife’s acceptance of it. Most important of all, I will truly feel your undying love and devotion.

Category: bloggers, Journalism