Commentary: Fast Company Shows How Environmental Justice Advocacy Can Be Journalism

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November 23, 2020

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Fast Company has been offering business-related news and opinions since 1995.
(Image by Marco Verch)

Plenty of people love to hate on the media. An accusation often aimed at reporters and broadcasters is that they are politically biased. But there are times when a journalist can write a principled piece of news while maintaining journalistic ethics. In a Sept. 29 article for Fast Company, Kristin Toussaint points out that while the nation addresses the spread of coronavirus, we should simultaneously begin fixing the social problems exposed by the pandemic.

Why Environmental Justice Must be a Part of Green COVID-19 Recovery” is representative of the type of stories Fast Company labels “Impact” journalism. Toussaint begins by talking about California’s high level of unsafe air caused by the 2020 wildfires. She explains that since COVID-19 ushered in the ability to work from home, many people in Monterey County have opted to move out of the area, desiring to avoid the bad air quality and high rent while still keeping their jobs. But essential workers—such as migrants and minimum wage earners—cannot escape.

Toussaint argues that even though the nation may recover from the pandemic, these deeper social inequities won’t change unless we address the underlying environmental racism which has been starkly exposed by COVID-19.

Since 1995, Fast Company has typically published business-related content. They maintain a “high” factual reporting rating from Media Bias/Fact Check, and have never failed a fact check. Still, they’ve garnered a “left center” rating on the independent website’s bias scale because many of the articles moderately favor the political left.

While Toussaint’s position aligns with some left-wing viewpoints, she takes her side based on evidence. She advocates for a pandemic recovery that confronts the systems which support injustice in housing, transportation, and proximity to pollution and toxic waste.

“It’s not enough to say we need more wind and solar [energy],” Toussaint says. “We have to make sure wind and solar are available to low-wealth communities and communities of color, who often pay more for energy, or don’t have access to energy.”

Toussaint does not violate the Pew Research Center’s four Core Principles of Journalism, a set of ethical standards meant to guide reporters. She remains faithful to the truth, stays loyal to the public, has verified her information, and is as unbiased as possible for an article of this nature. She makes her point without blaming specific people or companies who haven’t tried to minimize their environmental footprint. Her tone does not shame the reader into agreeing with her. She offers a scenario of what including environmental justice would look like in the pandemic recovery, but also cites statistics, states facts, and quotes knowledgeable individuals.

Toussaint does take a stance—towards a cleaner and greener planet, towards making sure underserved communities can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and are given a fair chance at green jobs. Attempting to be completely objective can restrict journalists from exposing the depth of a problem and talking about solutions. Toussaint illustrates how taking a side in journalism can still serve the public by addressing the concerns of her readers and encouraging them to consider the broader possibilities of a COVID-19 recovery.

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