REI Co-op invests in promoting environmental news

Two new media ventures will seek to counter recent decline in journalism on eco issues

Seattle-based outdoor gear retailer REI Co-op is launching a new environmental and outdoor magazine – and a new partnership to fund local non-profit newsrooms covering environmental issues.

The co-op will retire its mail-order catalogue in favour of print magazine, Uncommon Path, published by Hearst Magazines in collaboration with an in-house team of journalists and editors at REI.

The first issue will be available in the autumn at all 155 REI stores and selected news stands across the USA. It will feature articles on the outdoors in Atlanta, the US/Mexico border and northern Florida. There will also be stories about outdoor life and culture, product recommendations, gear reviews and more.

“Uncommon Path tells the stories of the experiences, the events, issues and ideas that shape the relationship between people and life outside,” said Ben Steele, REI’s executive vice president and chief customer officer. 

REI is also launching a new partnership with NewsMatch – a nationwide campaign to strengthen local journalism. The co-op is investing in 10 local news organisations to support local environmental and outdoor coverage. The move comes as research has found that coverage of climate change on major broadcast networks declined by 45% from 2017 to 2018; nearly 1,800 local newspapers in the US have closed since 2004 – and corporations pollute more when there aren’t local newspapers to hold them accountable.

“Today, the average American spends more than 70 years of their life indoors. We have to reverse that trend,” said Alex Thompson, REI’s vice president of brand stewardship and impact.

“But how do you get someone outside who has never set foot on a hiking trail? Or inspire them to try a new activity they’ve never done before? Oftentimes getting someone to take that first step outside is as simple as offering a tiny spark of inspiration. We believe that spark can be powerful enough to change someone’s worldview – and that’s what we’re trying to do through our own stories, films and podcasts.”