Notice came on Friday that the Dallas Morning News had finally decided to fill the environmental beat reporter position left vacant by Randy Lee Loftis' departure. The lucky winner was announced via a response to a reader's comment on a story about the Lake Lewisville BLM fracking lease sale.
"This is just one more reason the Morning News needs an environmental beat reporter," wrote the reader.
"That would be me," replied reporter Jeff Mosier, whose debut under his new job title was that day's story on the BLM fracking lease.
Shortly after, Mosier sent out this "job status" tweet with picture of the Lake Lewisville story, "My debut as environmental writer for
@dallasnews. I'll spend more time at landfills than Super Bowls now"
That's a reference to Mosier's stint as a DMN SportsDay reporter covering the Cowboys on and off since at least 2004. Texas environmental politics is definitely a contact sport, but that's not the reason he was picked. He's a News journeyman who came to the paper with a lot of other former Times Herald employees in 1994 and rose through the ranks on a number of different beats. Here's a sampling of his coverage of Dallas City Hall goings-on. So local politics is not a foreign subject matter.
More on point, he was writing for the News' Tarrant County/Fort Worth Bureau in the early stages of the citizen backlash to urban drilling in the Barnett Shale. He's familiar with the issues surrounding fracking and wrote about them from roughly 2009 to 2013. Some examples:
From all previous indications, it looked like the News was grooming long-time Educational Reporter Jeffery Weiss to take Loftis' place. Weiss covered the unveiling of Downwinders' UNT Ozone Study and Dr. Robert Haley's Public Health Cost Study back in October, as well as the subsequent Dallas County Commissioners' resolution on reducing pollution from obsolete East Texas coal plants. But apparently Weiss is being put in charge of Energy coverage for the paper.
These moves are all part of a large shake-up of the entire Morning News newsroom as the paper tries to make the on-going rocky transition from print to digital. Lofttis' retirement could have been seen as a chance to do some necessary belt-tightening at the expense of a hunk of coverage. To the paper's credit, it resisted that temptation and named a new environmental beat reporter.
While Mosier's not a complete neophyte, he faces a steep learning curve. Give him some slack as he begins to reacquaint himself with The Way Things Really Work, and let's see if he can provide the public with needed clear-eyed reports from the front.
Because closing illegal smelters in your own backyard forces the corporations to build unsafe facilities in other places….or something like that.
Back in 2006-2007, it started out well enough, fueled by the opposition of the paper and the City of Dallas to Governor Perry's plans to fast-track as many as 17 new coal-fired power plants. It served as a platform for the paper's reporting of that story from Business Section reporter Elizabeth Souder, as well as writings from Editorial Board writer Colleen McCain, and Environmental Reporter Randly Lee Loftis.
But as that story went away, so did the blog's flow of entries. While Souder would post, Loftis was an infrequent contributor and McCain left the paper some time ago. Pieces had been coming in at a rate of one every 2-4 months. As a place to go to find out things about local DFW environmental goings-on, it had ceased to be relevant years ago.
Still, its demise is another sign of how scant the mainstream coverage of environmental issues is in the nation's fourth largest metropolitan area. Forget about the Star-Telegram – it doesn't even have a reporter assigned to do environmental beat coverage. Channel 8's Project Green is as much a self-promotional vehicle as it is information clearinghouse. Loftis remains the Last Environmental Reporter standing in DFW but the infrequency of his articles and absence at major events would challenge that title.
Only the alternative weeklies – The Dallas Observer and Ft. Worth Weekly – have maintained their coverage of environmental issues and risen to the crisis created by the invasion of urban gas drilling. They're providing much of the coverage that you might have seen in the dailies only a decade or so ago.
And of course, there's the citizen blogosphere. Here in North Texas we have Sharon Wilson's Blue Daze – probably the nation's closest thing to an online national grassroots meeting place for gas drilling skeptics and opponents. Sharon gets more hits in a day than many of the mainstream media's stories get in weeks. In her wake she's inspired a slew of homegrown fracking sites throughout the Barnett Shale and beyond that mix micro reporting on their neighborhood battles with macro analysis and links to national articles. Want to find out about fracking in Grand Prairie? You'd best take a look at Susan Read's Westchester-Grand Prairie Community Alliance. Need to get an update on the fight over Dallas' new gas drilling ordinance? You should check out the Dallas Residents at Risk page for the latest news you won't find anyplace else.
There's Green Source for calendar and event listings, and they've been upping their reporting of North Texas environmental controversies, taking on West Nile arieal spraying, Dallas gas drilling, and the Midlothian cement plants that are so near and dear to our own hearts here at Downwinders.
And there's us. We know we've been spotty of late, but we're bet getting back on track with regular daily postings to try and give you information that's interesting, and useful. Keep checking. We'll keep posting.