For e-zine, it’s good being green

As newspapers and magazines across the country face budget cuts, layoffs and even closure, Yale’s 11-month-old environmental publication — “Yale Environment 360” — is not only surviving, but thriving.

The online magazine, also known as “e360,” has received two awards in the past month: “Best New Science Site” from Treehugger.com, a leading online “green” media outlet, and Official Honoree in the Webby Awards’ categories of “Best Science Site” and “Best Site for Copy/Writing.” The awards, which brought a temporary spike in Web site traffic, are helping to raise the site’s prominence and establish it as an authority on environmental issues, the e-zine’s editor in chief, Roger Cohn, said.

“We’ve been building traffic on the site dramatically in the past couple of months, and [the awards] certainly helped that,” Cohn said. “To be a small Web site starting up in our first year, and to achieve that kind of recognition, was very gratifying.”

E360, originally the brainchild of University President Richard Levin and School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Dean Gus Speth, is an element of the University’s ongoing effort to raise its standing in regard to international environmental matters.

The magazine reports and analyzes a variety of green topics, ranging from biodiversity to sustainability. Each week, the site posts two feature-length articles, and twice daily updates its sidebar, “e360 Digest,” with interviews, shorter pieces and summaries of relevant news articles and science papers.

Although e360 only has three full-time staff members — Cohn, senior editor Fen Montaigne and web editor Kevin Dennehy — more than 75 other scientists, journalists and environmentalists have contributed to the site and the approximately 100 feature-length articles it has published.

Cohn said the Web site gets visitors from 201 countries, with the United States, Canada, China and India accounting for the most traffic. Members of universities and environmental and nonprofit groups comprise the majority of the approximately 1,000 comments posted to articles, he said.

Considering the frequency with which the site is updated and the abundance of reader comments, e360 may seem more like a blog than a magazine. But, Cohn emphasized, e360 provides reliable, science-backed information and commentary that blogs sometimes lack.

“We do have a lot of discussion, but we aren’t about blogging,” he said. “We are about informed commentary and journalism. The web and the world need more of that, and I think readers are responding.”

Readers agree that e360 offers something unique from many other green Web sites.

Fred Strebeigh, who teaches nonfiction writing in the English Department and the environment school, said he thinks e360, with its global reach and reliable reporting, will set the example for many future Web-based publications.

“I greatly admire what Yale Environment 360 offers — fine editing, serious fact-checking and a deep hunger, thanks partly to the capaciousness of Web publication, for reporting and commentary that breaks new ground and can reshape conventional thinking,” he said. “In many ways Environment 360 is pointing the way toward what can be an invaluable path in web-based publication.”

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