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A Journalism Project Reveals Perils on Earth's "Outlaw Ocean"
You know two-thirds of "Earth" is ocean, but you almost surely don't know everything that happens there. Happily a great journalism initiative continues to shed light and make the case for oversight.
UPDATED - 05/26/23 2:15 pm - I can’t think of a journalist more inventive, determined and gutsy than Ian Urbina, who made illicit or harmful human activities beyond the ocean’s horizon his beat in 2015 and has never changed course.
Before then, Urbina was charting a fairly conventional career in investigative reporting. At my alma mater, The New York Times, he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 as part of the team revealing then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes. He wrote a tough series on fracking and another on failures of federal occupational health regulators.
That turn to covering lawlessness at sea in 2015 generated a running Times series, The Outlaw Ocean, and, in 2019, a best-selling book of the same name. The project required long weeks at sea in some of the most dangerous reporting situations imaginable outside of a battlefield.
Some journalists would pivot after a sprint like that to some new issue. Urbina just dove deeper, raising funds and launching a nonprofit, team-generated, multimedia Outlaw Ocean news operation including podcasts, a music project (generating some controversy and an apology), a Google Earth layer and, most recently, Dispatches from the Outlaw Ocean, a 10-part series of short films that launched in April and concludes June 19. Awards now include an Emmy.
Here’s my conversation with Urbina:
And Urbina is also here on Substack, so please subscribe to keep track of the film series and next steps: