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Environmental Reporting Fellowships > Reflections

Metcalf Environmental Reporting Fellows
Create Impressive Portfolios

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Metcalf Institute fellow Michelle Ma shoots video of researchers harvesting eelgrass during an assignment on Washington's Olympic Peninsula this summer.

Credit: Steve Ringman, Seattle Times staff photographer

In the past nine months, the Metcalf Institute's Reporting Fellows have covered rivers and oceans, Eskimo populations, nuclear power and politics - and a host of local, national and international topics related to climate change and the environment.

As their reporting fellowships come to an end, the five fellows - Azadeh Ansari, Hamida Kinge, Michelle Ma, Brentin Mock, and Bina Venkataraman - have left their marks on environmental reporting in print and on the Internet.

Bina Venkataraman found herself exploring the nexus between science and policy at her fellowship at the Boston Globe. She covered one of the biggest issues in New England - coastal wind farms - and was able to take a novel look at global warming - not with a biologist, but with an astrophysicist who contemplated the perspective of time, the universe and a different type of global warming.

"[These] two stories in particular over the fellowship year allowed me to explore the nexus between science and policy, and to use a distinctive lens to capture a pressing environmental concern," Venkataraman said.

"I was grateful for the time and resources provided by the fellowship, which incubated these two ideas."

Azadeh Ansari, who came to Metcalf with a degree in microbiology and sociology, found herself covering the changing lives of Eskimos who have been uprooted because of global warming. At CNN, she also covered undersea bombs and their impact on the oceans, and a new level of sophistication for keeping track of bird watchers' data.

At Next American City, Hamida Kinge explained trading systems for water quality - not unlike cap and trade systems for carbon emissions, but not as publicized. She also talked with a cardiologist-turned-air pollution activist and tackled "Megadisasters," intense floods; poor air quality; and devastating droughts that arise from urban poverty, climate change, and poor rural planning.

During his fellowship, Brentin Mock got to explore the intersection of politics and the environment from the inside. At the American Prospect, based in Washington, D.C., Mock evaluated Arlen Specter's stance on climate change, religious attitudes toward the environment and environmental justice in poor, minority neighborhoods.

At the end of her fellowship, Michelle Ma is confident in her skills as a multi-media environmental reporter. At the Seattle Times she was given the leeway to pursue Web video production and Ma took the initiative to find stories that lent themselves to the medium.

She produced clips on creek restoration, fur seals, coral propagation and other topics that supplemented her written work.

"The Metcalf Institute fellowship provided a rare opportunity for me to work among the best journalists in the field while developing my own reporting and video skills," Ma said.

"I am grateful for the mentorship, guidance and feedback I sought and received from colleagues at The Seattle Times, and I'm convinced more than ever of the importance of reporting on the environment."

Varied as their work is, the stories show that fellows have all taken to heart the purpose of the Metcalf Fellowship.

"The Metcalf fellowship injected journalists into newsrooms at a time when publications had been struggling," Venkataraman said, "and trained us in scientific practices so that we could serve as a bridge between the public and researchers."

"The fellowship year held challenges - but most were gratifying and the experience will be a memorable and instructive one as we chart the rest of our careers."


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July 3, 2009