Southerly is an independent, non-profit 501(c)3 media organization that serves communities in the South who face environmental injustice and are most at-risk of the effects of climate change. We do this by equipping them with the journalism, resources, and information they need to make their communities healthier and safer, to hold power to account, and to have agency over their future.
As this region changes—environmentally, economically, politically, demographically—we hope this work can help make it a more informed, equitable, healthy, and beautiful place to live.
We believe all Southerners deserve accurate information and beautiful stories they can see themselves represented in.
People impacted by the issues we cover are experts of their own lives and should have agency over their own stories—and be treated with respect, always.
Our work is impossible without collaboration—both with other local news outlets throughout the South, and with civic institutions, nonprofits, and other organizations that community members trust.
Stories about climate change and other environmental issues should meet people where they’re at, while providing context, connecting the dots between places and people, and offering real-life experiences.
The journalism landscape is changing just as quickly as our natural and built landscapes. That means we are always learning, evolving, and responding to what we hear from readers we serve.
The South is a special, and complex, place. Its landscapes—the ancient, rolling hills of East Kentucky, the rich soil of the Black Belt, the enchanting coastal marshes of Louisiana—are world renowned, yet relatively unprotected. They are full of Indigenous peoples’ history, culture, and livelihood, but there is little recognition of these sovereign nations and the lands forcibly taken from them. In this region, we have some of the most biodiverse ecosystems and the most deserted news ecosystems. Our residents—mostly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people—are bearing the brunt and will lose the most from extreme weather, heat, and flooding, but those in power have done the least to stop it. Our economy is drastically transitioning as the nation moves away from greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels, and yet little has been done to ensure a just economic transition for these communities and workers.
Southerly started as a weekly email newsletter in Dec. 2016 to shed light on overlooked news and stories about the complicated relationship Southerners have with their environment, and work to shift the narrative about our diverse and beautiful region. After the 2016 election, the media vowed to change how they covered rural, BIPOC, and other marginalized communities—but did not keep those promises. National journalists still parachuted in after crises, corporate conglomerates still gobbled up and shut down newspapers.
The newsletter gained thousands of subscribers, then a few hundred Patreon supporters. The dedication to telling fuller and more nuanced stories about the region and highlighting overlooked issues won trust and credibility, and a little funding. In mid-2018, we launched as an independent publication with a $5,000 grant, and have been producing in-depth, investigative, and public service journalism ever since. That process started slow—just a few stories in 2018 and 2019—but picked up during the pandemic when we hired our first part-time reporter in the Gulf Coast. It set us on a path to covering more specific environmental justice issues. We found our footing focusing on equitable disaster preparedness, response, recovery; the right to functional and safe infrastructure; and public health and pollution in rural communities.
A nonprofit, mission-driven model always made sense for us. Since 2018, we’ve informed people inside and outside the region about environmental injustice and how Southerners—particularly rural, low-wealth, and BIPOC communities—are working to make their communities healthier, safer, and more empowered. We’ve done it through investigations, essays, documentaries, podcasts and more. And each year, we’ve engaged people around these issues more: first partnering with news outlets to co-publish stories, host workshops, and do more targeted outreach to underserved places; then partnering directly with community organizations and civic institutions to create and distribute resources and stories. Now, we’re equipping people with the tools they need to do journalism themselves, in the ways that are most useful for them and in the places they know best, through out community reporting fellowship and documenters programs.