Published: April 2, 2019

A journalism initiative to expand coverage of Western water issues is launching this month at the University of Colorado Boulder with support from a two-year, $700,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

The Water Desk, based in the College of Media, Communication and Information’s Center for Environmental Journalism, is dedicated to boosting coverage of Western water issues, with a focus on the Colorado River Basin. The goal is to help educate the public and inform policy decisions.

“Some 40 million people in the United States and Mexico draw water from the basin, and the region is confronting unprecedented challenges managing its most precious natural resource,” said Professor Tom Yulsman, director of the CEJ. “Given our focus on enriching public understanding of environmental issues through better journalism, the Water Desk is a natural fit for us at the Center for Environmental Journalism.”

In addition to providing support to seasoned reporters, the Walton Family Foundation grant will help emerging journalists enhance their ability to cover the scientific, economic, political and social aspects of these issues.

“Around the world, water is one of the defining issues of the 21st century,” said Mitch Tobin, the Water Desk’s incoming director and a former award-winning newspaper reporter who covered water and other issues for the Napa Valley Register, Tucson Citizen, and Arizona Daily Star. “Here in Colorado and the American West, the stakes have never been higher as climate change and population growth continue to stress our water resources.”

The Water Desk will strengthen water journalism in a variety of ways, including:

  • Support for journalists: The Water Desk will provide funding, training, and other resources to journalists and media outlets that cover Western water issues and the Colorado River.
  • Original content: The Water Desk will produce its own content, with an emphasis on data, multimedia, explanatory and solutions-oriented journalism.
  • Education and community engagement: The Water Desk will work with CU’s students, its News Corps program for investigative journalism, and others beyond campus to advance learning, train the next generation of water journalists, and engage the community on Western water issues through public meetings.

“Journalists play a critical role in collecting factual information, informing the public, and holding officials accountable,” said Ted Kowalski, Colorado River Initiative lead at the Walton Family Foundation. “Through the Water Desk, we hope to expose the public to the challenges and solutions facing the Colorado River, and the millions of people who depend on it.”

As a journalistic effort, the Water Desk will maintain a strict editorial firewall between its content and its funders. Likewise, the Water Desk has editorial independence from the university. 

For additional information on the initiative, please visit the website or email Mitch Tobin.