WCAI, WGBH’s news affiliate covering the Cape, Coast and Islands, celebrates 20 years on air this year with an ever-deepening commitment to covering the human impacts of climate change. Steve Junker, news director, and Eve Zuckoff, environment reporter, reflect on Cape Cod’s environmental niche.
How did you come to identify science as your primary issue?
SJ: Science really is baked into our mission. From the very beginning, science has been our primary focus, and there are a few reasons for that. Woods Hole is home to a number of major scientific institutions including the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Also, Cape Cod overall is exposed to so many environmental forces — the sea level rise and intensifying storms — putting us on the forefront of climate change. And many people in our audience came to live on the Cape by choice. One of the big reasons why they came is because of the natural environment. They are attuned to it, curious about it and feel the significance of what happens in nature and its impact on their lives.
How does the environmental reporting resonate with your audience?
EZ: The environment feels integral to everyone who lives here and why they live here. I hear a lot of gratitude that we're paying just as much attention to the natural world as they are. We certainly have no shortage of experts here, which really helps.
SJ: Eve’s position was created — and funded partially by Report for America — to fill a gap in our coverage of the human impacts of climate change. Our listeners have responded so strongly that it really reinforces our sense that there was a real need. Her environmental content often gets the most views on our website. When we send stories out to the region via the New England News Collaborative (a 10-station consortium of public media newsrooms), the environmental pieces travel really well in the wider region. They speak to people not just on Cape Cod, but across the region who have an interest in the environment.
How do you decide which stories you’re going to cover?
EZ: There are more stories than we could ever begin to cover, so we look for variation across all the issues that connect to climate change — health, transportation, housing, education, intersections with faith, our oceans, wildlife. You can pull any one of those threads and get 15 great stories.
What new issues or trends are you following?
EZ: I think transportation is really interesting right now, representing both the barriers and opportunities for progress around climate change. In Massachusetts, the transportation sector produces more than one third of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and there’s so much movement — and conflict — at every level to reduce that footprint.
SJ: A big push right before the pandemic landed was the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions for buildings. Massachusetts had committed to reducing emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, and now the state is looking to reach net zero by then, which means the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere would be no more than the amount taken out. Goals are even greater on Martha's Vineyard, where there’s been a push to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. It's fascinating that the pressure to do more than the state is mandating is coming from within the communities that we cover.