Coverage of climate change is more important than ever, but unfortunately, resources dedicated to this reporting are limited. Enter Floodlight (floodlightnews.org), a nonprofit environmental news collaborative, that aims to expose corporate and ideological interests from spreading disinformation and holding back climate action.
Floodlight was founded by Emily Holden, an investigative environmental journalist. She most recently served as the environment correspondent for the Guardian. Last fall, Holden pitched the idea for Floodlight to the newspaper and asked them to be the national publishing partner, which it immediately supported.
“The Guardian has been so creative in ways to expand its climate coverage and always been supportive of ideas like this that I’ve had in the past,” Holden said. “So, it made sense to bring the idea to John Mulholland (editor of Guardian US).”
The initial conversations for Floodlight occurred between Holden and Alexander Kaufman, senior environment reporter for HuffPost, who is now an adviser for Floodlight. Holden also spoke to past mentors of hers and other news organizations for tips on the nonprofit world. Floodlight also subscribes to the standards of editorial independence adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News.
Floodlight launched on March 1, with a story about the city of Austin’s climate plan that was disrupted by a gas company, in partnership with the Texas Observer and the San Antonio Report. Floodlight collaborates with local journalists to report, write and co-publish with them in their outlets, as well as in the Guardian.
Floodlight focuses on investigative stories that have a local angle that also resonates nationally and internationally. Most stories will focus on climate change, but Floodlight will also report on other environmental subjects such as air pollution (Holden emphasized that Floodlight delivers stories but does not prescribe what needs to be done). The goal for now is to publish one to four stories a month until Floodlight can expand and hire full-time reporters.
Floodlight has also received dozens of news tips from readers getting in touch about something that concerns them, stating that Floodlight is exactly what they need, and reporters have reached out wanting to work with the organization. The reaction was more than she expected, Holden said.
Currently, when Holden has an idea, she first seeks out a local journalist who she thinks would be an appropriate writer for the piece. She explained that while Floodlight does not pay these journalists, they are receiving extra reporting resources and the editing and audience and engagement expertise of the Guardian when partnering with Floodlight.
As Floodlight awaits its 501 (c)(3) status, the Society of Environmental Journalists is acting as a fiscal sponsor for major grants. Additionally, Floodlight is accepting individual contributions with the caveat that they may be tax-deductible retroactively, although this cannot be guaranteed. In the first few days after its launch, Floodlight received nearly $3,000 in individual contributions, Holden shared.
“Reporting resources are incredibly strained at the local level. There’s a lot that we can’t do at the national level without having eyes and ears on the ground and experts where they are, who are trusted by their audience,” she said. “So, I think this is the kind of natural evolution for us, to set aside any ideas we have about competition and collaborate.”