The South is a special, 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. Each of these places are full of Indigenous history and culture, but there is little recognition of those people and the lands forcibly taken from them. In this region, we have some of the most biodiverse ecosystems and the most deserted news ecosystems. We 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 justice for these communities. Our states have some of the country’s highest populations of Black and Latinx folks — often in the most economically distressed counties — and decades of grassroots organizing are finally leading to significant political shifts.
As the South changes — environmentally, economically, politically, demographically — we are using journalism to make it a more informed, equitable, healthy, and beautiful place to live. Southerly is an independent, non-profit 501(c)3 media organization that covers the intersection of ecology, justice, and culture in the American South. Through partnerships with newsrooms, as well as community organizations (i.e. libraries) and groups, we produce accessible and thoughtful journalism for rural, BIPOC, and low-wealth communities in the region — and ensure it reaches them so that they can take action.
Southerly started as a weekly email newsletter in Dec. 2016 to highlight overlooked news about the complicated relationship Southerners have with their natural environment. That, combined with our storytelling, won trust, credibility, and an audience of subscribers who know the nuances of this region, but are often ignored by national media: longtime activists, students getting involved in political and social movements, and more conservative folks. In 2018, we launched this independent publication because people were hungry for stronger and fuller storytelling — stories beyond the Trump rally full of unemployed coal miners and the irony of communities who vote Republican despite losing land to sea-level rise.
Historically, journalism has been exploitative and extractive, and it has harmed people by oversimplifying stories, leaving out context, and relying on stereotypes. And those telling the stories have been overwhelmingly white, male, and affluent. We know y’all appreciate good storytelling. Loving stories is an inherent human trait. Everyone deserves accurate information and beautiful pieces they can see themselves in.
At Southerly, we’re focused on both. By partnering with local news outlets and community organizations, we ensure that not only do we hire people who reflect this region and its diversity, but that the journalism we produce reaches the people it’s about. We work with folks in places without consistent, accurate news to get information they haven’t been able to get: What do I need to do for the next hurricane season? How do I contact FEMA? How do I test my water?
We share information and resources through community centers like libraries and churches, in ways that make sense for the audiences we’re reaching — for one, it may be a story; for another, a printed newsletter; and another, a radio program. And because we know environmental issues well, we help turn those questions into impactful and lasting journalism that folks can use to make informed decisions.