There is a common misconception that my reporting trips are sponsored by NGOs, state tourism boards, or other entities. In fact, I fund Mongabay.com-related travel through revenue generated via advertising on the web site. It takes a lot of pageviews to fund a reporting trip to a place like Malaysia or Madagascar.
However because travel is expensive, I look to leverage opportunities when possible. For example if I’m invited to speak at an academic conference and the organizer is able to pay for the airfare, then I’ll turn a short speaking engagement into a longer trip (e.g. in 2011, my lecture series in Indonesia for the State Department and my Panama talk for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI). Likewise, if I know a patrol or a research team is going out to a site, I’ll see whether it’s possible to tag along, paying my share of the costs.
The economics of online environmental journalism make it very challenging to cover the costs of a trip through posting articles on Mongabay.com alone. So I also take a lot of pictures, which I’m sometimes able to license for books, magazines, TV, and films. An added benefit is those pictures can be used in our own articles.
Me in front of a large ceiba tree on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. I was in Panama to speak at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution on “Costing REDD+: The costs of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation”.
In the future, Mongabay is planning to offer opportunities for journalists to do in-depth investigative reporting projects on specific environmental topics under Mongabay’s “Special Reporting Initiatives” program, which is part of Mongabay.org, the non-profit arm of Mongabay that was set up last year. We’re still in the fundraising phase for the program, but watch for opportunities in the second half of 2013.