Reporters, photographers, and researchers from across the country gathered in Norman, Oklahoma, for the 25th annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists. It was a reunion of the only North American association of professional journalists dedicated to improving environmental reporting. While many topics were covered, the most prominent was the reinforcement of the idea that the job of the American journalist is not dead but, in fact, needed more than ever.
Reporters from Omaha and Oklahoma City, Nancy Gaarder and Sarah Terry-Cobo, offered opening remarks, which were followed by Native American dancers and drummers, a choir from the University of Oklahoma and an open interview with prominent Native Americans Casey Camp-Horinek and Clara Caufield.
Topics addressed during the conference included global issues of climate change, food security and water shortages. In addition, participants learned about issues connected to the Oklahoma region such as earthquakes caused by fracking, devastated mining towns and a radical shift in land ownership from Native Americans to the federal government.
“It’s an ongoing learning process and that’s something about journalism,” said Bill Allen, MU Science and Agricultural Journalism assistant professor. “I’m not alone in thinking this: the best journalists are always learning.”
Allen created a learning environment on wheels as he drove four science and environmental journalism students to the meeting.
Though many view the annual conference as a networking opportunity, there is no doubt it is valuable in more ways than one. James Bruggers, reporter for the Louisville Courier Journal, provided insight on the reality of a career as a reporter.
“Journalism is a license to satisfy your curiosity,” he said.
Curiosity was most definitely catered to. Attendees saw what life is like for people directly impacted by environmental hazards and disasters. There was no shortage of learning opportunities and there was an overall thirst for knowledge among participatns. In addition to personal fulfillment, the hosts of the SEJ conference in Oklahoma were able to introduce others to the devastation their home has seen in the past and continues to prepare for in the future. To see what that devastation entails, or to learn about the homes and lives SEJ will explore next year, click here