Bay Journal

Timothy B. Wheeler is associate editor and senior writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Bay Journal to lose EPA funding

Citing 'shift in priorities,' agency cancels multi-year grant for 27-year-old nonprofit news outlet covering the Chesapeake

  • August 23, 2017

It’s always awkward to become the news rather than simply report it, but here goes:

Today, we learned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to cut off a multi-year grant awarded to the Bay Journal by the EPA two years ago, effective Feb. 1. If the cut is upheld, it’s a big loss, as EPA funding covers about a third of our budget.

But it’s not the end of the Bay Journal — not even close.

The Bay Journal is currently in the second year of this six-year grant from the EPA, disbursed in annual installments. We were slated to receive $325,000 in February.

Needless to say, we’re baffled by the EPA’s decision. The notice informing us attributed the withdrawal to a “shift in priorities” at the EPA, without elaborating.

Karl Blankenship, the Bay Journal’s editor, issued the following statement:

We are disappointed that political appointees in the EPA have made an unprecedented decision to cut short a multi-year grant to the Bay Journal with no clear explanation.

For 27 years, the Bay Journal been an important source of news and information for those who care deeply about the Chesapeake. In surveys, our readers tell us they consider the accurate, independent reporting by our small, award-winning staff their most trusted source of information about the effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, and for related trends and events throughout the six-state watershed.

We will be exploring next steps regarding the EPA funding, as well as other potential funding sources.

The Bay Journal began in 1991 as an EPA-funded newsletter published by a nonprofit group, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, to inform people about what was going on with the then-new effort to restore the Bay. Karl Blankenship converted that newsletter to a newspaper and eventually took it independent of the Alliance. (See Bay Journal has covered ebb, flow of Chesapeake issues for 25 years.)

The Bay Journal is an editorially independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to reporting all sides of an issue, thoroughly. The EPA funding has been a constant, though declining, share of our budget as we have successfully grown and diversified our sources of grants and other donations. The EPA has never told us what to publish or not publish. Subscriptions are free, and our news reaches a wide variety of readers, from teachers, students, kayakers and anglers to policy makers, elected officials, scientists, business executives, farmers and watermen.

Over the years, our staff has grown from two to 11 so that we could enhance coverage of North America’s largest estuary and the ambitious, heavily taxpayer-funded effort to restore it. Our reporters not only cover core issues related to Chesapeake Bay restoration, but have also tackled controversies over natural gas “fracking” boom in Pennsylvania, the pipeline push in the Virginia highlands, the expansion of poultry operations on the Eastern Shore, the water-quality impacts of power plants’ coal ash disposal and the conundrum of dealing with built-up sediment behind Conowingo Dam. They’ve also reported first news that you read elsewhere later, such as the unexplained firing earlier this year of Maryland’s veteran crab fishery manager after watermen complained to the governor about catch limits.

Along the way, we’ve become widely recognized as a reliable source of comprehensive news and information about the Chesapeake and its six-state watershed. Our readers — nearly 100,000 a month in print and online — look to us to keep them abreast, and we don’t intend to let them down. 

We hope you’ll keep reading and, if you like what you read, share it with others. And if you believe, as we do, that the Bay region deserves a publication devoted to covering the many facets of its environment, please show your support by making a donation, however small.

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About Timothy B. Wheeler
Timothy B. Wheeler is associate editor and senior writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Read more articles by Timothy B. Wheeler


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Jon Farrington on August 24, 2017:

If just ten percent of your readership were to donate $32.50 each, this would offset the loss of the EPA grant. I just donated - who else?

Russell S. Donnelly on August 24, 2017:

This is one more negative impact in a growing list of actions aimed at total removal of Environmental Protections in our Nation !!! OUTRAGEOUS !!!

Janit Llewellyn Allen on August 24, 2017:

The Bay Journal is a highly respected,independent voice revered throughout the multi-state watershed. It is the go to for catching up with trends, research and Bay related news. It may be the only continuous written source of information binding those working and those interested in Bay topics together. Agencies and committees for the Bay have changed over the years, but the Bay Journal remains - the Bay Journal! And it should continue. Please be specific in instructing readers how we can help.

Rona Kobell on August 24, 2017:

Thank you, Janit. I would say you can help by donating, sharing your comment about us on Facebook and twitter, and encouraging your friends to donate. As Jon Farrington said, if even a small percentage of our readers donated small amounts, like $40, we could cover the difference. If the Journal were to charge, I think $40 is certainly reasonable for what you get - 10 issues a year, plus unlimited online access. Stay tuned. This announcement took us by surprise, and at least three of us were on vacation when it landed (including me right now). We haven't had much time to process it, but definitely, donations would help, and getting out the word about the importance of our work.

Brett Clifford on August 25, 2017:

I am a supporter of the ESLC, but did not know the Bay Journal existed. Now,I am excited to become a regular reader. I just now donated to the BJ, knowing that it is a 501(c)3 organization, making my contribution tax-deductible. I think I would rather donate than be taxed, thereby giving someone else in government the power to give you the money or have the rug pulled out as has just occurred (by either party). I am sure the BJ will reach out to those who are on the list to receive the mag. Those donors (old and new) will be more dependable than government grants that can be yanked for any number of reasons. Plus you make a better connection with your supporters. Like me.

Joseph Corcoran on August 28, 2017:

I suppose from the new EPA point of view , if BayJournal isn't there to report problems , problem solved . Hang in there . This current administration won't last long .

Robin on September 07, 2017:

I've enjoyed reading the Bay Journal for years - excellent reporting on all kinds of topics, and accessible for folks like me who don't have a background in estuarine ecosystems, fisheries, etc. Illegitimi non carborundum! I'll send a donation, and put this story on my Facebook page so my local friends will see it.

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