Reporting on Climate Adaptation homepageBeat memos.

Whether we’re seasoned journalists or rookies, we’ve all probably written one.

When a big prospective story hits our desks, we need to put that file together fast — cramming it with background info to scour, resources to check, story ideas to pitch, and lots of sources to call.

Well, just such a big story has landed in our laps. It’s called climate adaptation.

At every scale, communities around the United States and the world are having to prepare themselves for a seemingly endless array of worrisome climate impacts. And it’s a tale we journalists will be telling for years to come.

So where’s our climate adaptation beat memo?

That’s the good news. A crack team at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute just created one.

Today, we’re launching a new website that will give journalists a jump-start on this emerging issue. It’s called “Reporter’s Guide to Climate Adaptation” ( or, for short,

The guide has an extensive resource database, a series of helpful backgrounders, even an animated explainer.

We believe it’s the first time such information has been so well organized for newsrooms.

This is not just fodder for environmental journalists. It’s meant to help reporters from every beat — whether business, politics, local government, religion, even sports and recreation.

A lunch leads to a launch

The notion of helping journalists report better on climate adaptation has its origins in a makeshift airport luncheon last spring.

I had been working on issues revolving around climate adaptation coverage in New York City since late 2012, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy’s devastating damage. I knew that we journalists had to cover the climate impacts the city faces more thoroughly and consistently. That way, citizens themselves could better understand the risks and be more involved in preparing for them.

By mid-2013, with support from the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, where I’m on the faculty, I had launched

The AdaptNY project’s goal was not only to produce traditional shoe-leather investigative reporting on climate adaptation issues. It was also to experiment with innovative approaches to adaptation news, such as using social curation to report the story, public document annotation to explore primary source material, and media-citizen collaborative workshops to develop solutions.

But AdaptNY, with its New York-centric focus, was only a starting point. This was a national story, and a global story.

From past experience with RJI (I had worked with it as a consultant on an entrepreneurial journalism social network some years before), I knew that RJI had the foresight and the resources to help me translate this work to the next level.

So en route to a national climate adaptation forum in St. Louis last May, I arranged lunch with Roger Gafke, RJI’s director of program development.

Our discussion that day covered a range of matters, but one fundamental truth became apparent: Reporters need help covering what we believed to be an important generational story.

Over the ensuing months, we talked about several ideas before finally resolving that our first step should be to put together a document that organized resources to help journalists report on adaptation — our equivalent of a beat memo.

In mid-October, I visited RJI in Columbia, Missouri, for two-and-a-half days of intensive meetings. With the support and insight of RJI Executive Director Randy Picht and many others at RJI, we finalized the basic concepts of the Reporter’s Guide, and then assembled the talented group that put the website together over the last month.

Reporting on Climate Adaptation resource pageGetting started in three minutes

So, where should you start as a reporter? If you’re new to climate adaptation, I’d suggest you pull up a chair and watch our short animated explainer.

This three-minute video will give you the basics: It explains the risks of climate change, what is being done about it, and some of the costs of action — and inaction.

Then, when you’re ready to go deeper on the issue, scan our adaptation backgrounder. We define adaptation, explain the need for it, provide infographics showing some of the impacts expected, and touch on who’s adapting already.

Here’s a big leg up for working journalists of all stripes: Dozens of ideas for adaptation story angles to pursue, from health and consumer to agriculture and military. We’ve also shared brief case studies of some especially effective adaptation reporting to inspire better coverage.

The heart of the Reporter’s Guide is its resource database. We’ve painstakingly compiled and carefully annotated a collection of more than 200 key adaptation resources so reporters can immediately identify the sources that can lead them to stories.

A fast-read format provides a quick overview of the source, as well as detailed information on how journalists can use it. And we’ve categorized each resource so you can look for information based on particular climate risks or responses, by location, by how current the information is or whether it’s from government, academic, advocacy or media.

That means you can sort through the resource database to find specifically what you’re looking for, such as information on flooding or wildfires, transportation or energy, or whether the resource is focused on the Western United States or elsewhere.

It’s an evolving database. We’ll continue to expand the resource list over the next couple of months, adding new entries as we come across them. Users are also encouraged to share additional resources they know of, as well as share suggested story angles and case studies of exemplary coverage.

Read more about the project on the site.

We welcome your feedback. Use the contact form on the site or send me an email at adam(at) We hope you’ll find ( useful as you get ready for the climate adaptation story. Good luck!

A. Adam Glenn  


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