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Sierra Club/CELP event honors ethical journalism

Journalists honored at Winter Waters organized by Sierra Club Upper Columbia River group, and CELP

Under the theme, “Honoring Ethical Journalism,” the 2018 Winter Waters honored three retired journalists—environmental writer Julie Titone, outdoor writer Rich Landers and investigative journalist Karen Dorn Steele—who contributed to our understanding of the environmental issues in the Inland Northwest.

In the process they honored fact-based journalism as essential to protecting waters, forests, wildlife habitats and cleaning up pollution in the Upper Columbia River Basin.

Julie covered threats to the region’s waters and opportunities to engage in decisions to sustain and protect rivers and forests.  She gave voice to the voiceless, including wildlife, rivers and tribes struggling with a legacy of mining and smelting pollution.  In a time of historic transition and the consequent conflict over water and forests, her reporting for the Columbia River Basin can best be described as “healing journalism”: respectful written dialogue allowing people to better understand issues and each other that empowered the regional community to recognize the finite limits of water and forests.

Rich brought stories of the rivers, special places and outdoor pursuits of the Columbia Basin.  Conservation was a thread woven through his articles and photos.  He was instrumental in the Upper Columbia River region in helping bring together hunters, anglers, outdoor recreation enthusiasts and environmentalists to recognize their common interest in protecting clean, flowing rivers and habitat for fish and wildlife.

Karen opened our eyes to the threats of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one of the world’s most polluted places and also a place of historic importance. Radioactive discharges into the air and groundwater have profound consequences, theatening the Columbia River region.

Her reporting connected us with the lives of our neighbors terribly impacted by deliberate decisions to pollute the air, land and water.  More broadly, her reporting helped us better recognize the importance of justice and stewardship in decisions about our region.

In our region starting in the 1980s, we have been undergoing a series of historic transitions with the closing of frontiers—timber, mining and now water—brought on by exploitation and limits of the natural world.  Critical reporting on the environment is essential to sustaining and restoring the rivers and economies that depend on them in the Columbia River Basin.

In the face of widespread corporate and foreign national meddling in our political discourse via social media and the proliferation of “fake news,” it is vital that the honorable work of journalists dedicated to truth and the common good be recognized and applauded.

Today, as in every age, but particularly confronted as we are with the speed and quantity of what passes as news, we need reporters who not only are able to write a winsome phrase and paint a convincing verbal picture of our wildlife and landscapes, but who also love the earth and seek to support and honor its intricate web of life.

The work of these three journalists has contributed to a just and intelligent public expectation of what is acceptable in a human-nature ethic.  They have held public and private officials to higher standards and perhaps most importantly, these journalists are a continuing example for others in the face of attacks on journalism and the environment.

Interviews of the journalists are at

John Osborn of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Upper Columbia River Group of the Sierra Club

Copyright © May 2018 - The Fig Tree