Our local New York Times writer: Jim Robbins


Shelby Russell, Staff writer

Jim Robbins is a freelance writer who has authored books and articles while based in Helena. He enjoyed writing growing up but got serious about it when he was in college. He graduated from Buffalo State College, with a degree in journalism. He then started writing for a Missoula paper and moved to Helena in 1978-1979.

After living in Helena for a while, he began drafting articles for the New York Times, his first story being about pesticides found in ducks due to consumption of affected plants. He has regularly written for the New York Times and Yale’s online newspaper. Some of his articles include “Where the Bison Could Roam,” “Global ‘Stilling’ Is Climate Change Slowing Down the Wind?” “Why the Luster on Once-Vaunted ‘Smart Cities’ Is Fading,” and many more.

Along with writing articles, he has also written six books. Some of his books include A Symphony in the Brain, The Wonder of Birds, and The Man Who planted Trees. His book The Man Who Planted Trees is based off David Milarch, a man who made it his mission to clone the biggest trees on the planet to save our forest and ecosystem. New York Times Book Reviewer Dominique Browning wrote, “While Jim Robbins’s tone is urgent, it does not compromise his crystal-clear science.”

Other than environmental topics, Jim Robbins also writes about the human central nervous system. His book, A Symphony in the Brain, was described as “A fascinating overview of neurofeedback and its potential benefits for treating depression, autism, epilepsy, and other conditions” by Discover.

He started out writing on a manual typewriter but has since moved on to other forms of writing, saying that “The invention of the internet changed journalism.”

When he came to speak with us in newspaper class, he spoke very professionally and got straight to the information when describing his past life events. Just like in his books, he sticks to facts and provides us with a lot of verity about how he writes, and why he loves to write. He said, “It has been a very intellectually satisfying career.”

He has also done a lot of traveling for book tours, including the US, Europe, Mongolia, Peru, Chile, and Mexico. He likes traveling stories because “They pay for all your expenses.”

His latest article, titled “A Giant Balloon Floats into Town, and It’s All Anyone Can Talk About” was published Feb. 3, 2023, on the front page of the New York Times. It talks about the mysterious balloon that was  spotted over Billings, Montana. With funny quotes and useful information, it is worth checking out.

Jim Robbins has had a fun and fulfilling career, from traveling to other countries to doing research for his many books. Although he has been writing and traveling for a long time, he says that the most important lesson he has learned is that “The world is still a mystery.”