Innovation Starts Here: Environmental Journalism Class

The Environmental Journalism course (ENVIRON 320, as some of you may recall), is a course that provides a hands-on experience on what it is like to be a real-world journalist. It is intended to give students a broad understanding of how the mass media operates while also sharing tips on how they can participate in the mass media — either as full-time journalists or contributors to public dialogue

Each week, the course focuses on a different topic in the news related to various environmental and public health topics, such as urban sprawl, climate change, environmental justice, energy efficiency, garbage, and cancer. Students learn not only about the subject itself but also about the process of journalism. The instructors, Emilia Askari and Julie Halpert, are prize-winning journalists who have more than 40 years combined experience covering the environment and public health.


Students benefit from detailed feedback that instructors provide on their writing, through a series of drafts that evolve to a final polished product. Many students have had their articles published in widely read newspapers and magazines, which are available to the public via their class blog, Dissecting the News, and twitter.


One blog reader in particular, John Bracken, Director of the Knight Foundation and the leader behind the Knight News Challenge, was so enthralled by the student’s creativity, he and other journalism professionals attended “Pitchfest,” the course’s final oral project presentation.


During “Pitchfest,” (link to event) students pitched their ideas for new ways to gather and/or share information related to the environment or public health. What was the result of this discussion? John Bracken specifically invited two of our student teams to submit their ideas to the Knight News Challenge competition, one of the key funders of cutting edge ideas in the news media business.


“The event was a great success on several levels,” explains course instructor Emilia Askari. “John Bracken came away impressed and is planning to return to campus on April 19 for the final day of our winter term class, when our next group of students will be pitching their innovation ideas.”(link to Apr 19th event). The event will again be open to the public and will be in Space 2435 of North Quad from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.


Special recognition goes to students Adam Eickmeyer, Becky Mueller, Phoebe Barghouty, Alicia Adamczyk, Kendall Effinger, and Barrett Franks, who submitted the “Health Radar” and “M Food” proposals to the challenge earlier this month.


PitE is very proud of the attention their work already has attracted from the director of this competition. We’re eagerly looking forward to his return visit in April.