As communication pros, we wear many hats: writer, editor, researcher, marketer, the list goes on. And we develop a portfolio of transferable skills to match. All too often, though, it’s hard to see how to employ our talents in a novel way.
Consider the non-profit advocacy group Climate Change Resources, a comprehensive aggregation of news and scientific reports for journalists, students, businesspeople, policymakers, and activists. The brainchild of two publishing pros, it is a case study in utilizing your skills for something truly important and unexpected.
Media executive Lena Tabori is the co-founder of book packaging firm Welcome Enterprises and the former head of publishing imprint Welcome Books, as well as the co-founder of publishing firm Stewart, Tabori & Chang. After selling Welcome Books, Tabori contemplated ways to engage her interest in the mystery genre. Then came the 2016 election and Tabori felt a call to action.
“I thought, OK, so as far as my epitaph is concerned, I better have something on it other than ‘She created some mystery seminars,’” says Tabori. After thinking through the policy issues that most concerned her, she concluded what “might have the greatest amount of damage done to it over the four years of [a Trump presidency] was climate change.”
While attending a memorial service for a literary giant in 2016, she reconnected with Mike Shatzkin, the founder of The Idea Logical Company and a widely-known analyst of digital change in the book industry. Their small talk turned into a big project. Tabori told Shatzkin she was rearranging her workload to prioritize climate change. Same here, Shatzkin replied. By the time the event honoring the late Martin Levin was over, a collaboration was born.
Realizing that climate information changes too fast for book publication, Shatzkin and Tabori began conceptualizing a website. They themselves aren’t scientists or lawmakers, but their training made them “experts in finding experts and expertise.” They recognized their editorial and curatorial judgment was equally applicable to an electronic publication.
How did they gain this awareness?
“That’s what the book business is all about,” says Shatzkin. “Editors sign up authors who know much more about the topic. They learn what experts they can trust.”
Adds Tabori, “As a publisher, I always started by exercising my curiosity about a subject in order to find the perfect writer or photographer.”
To the best of their knowledge, Shatzkin and Tabori are publishing the “biggest aggregation of climate change content that exists on the web now,” says Shatzkin. “We can’t find a competitor doing what we’re doing,” Tabori clarifies, noting there are specialized sites that focus more narrowly.
Shatzkin has been an outspoken and far-sighted analyst of digital disruption in publishing, and his wide-angle approach is naturally suited to explaining climate change, particularly how today’s actions will have compounding consequences in the decades ahead.
“Lena and I managed to work in the book business for its last 50 years of any stability and commercial viability,” says Shatzkin. “ It doesn’t have stability or commercial viability anymore.”
“I don’t pretend that I can tell people how to live in the next 50 years based on how I lived in the past 50 years. But I do know some things about climate change, what’s causing it, and what’s likely to happen as a result of things we’ve already done. Anybody who wants to stick around the planet for the next 50 years would be well advised to start understanding that and thinking about how, first of all, they can contribute to lessening the damage, but secondly, figure out where they should live and what they should do based on the reality that this is happening.”