Peter Dykstra: So you want to be an environmental journalist?

Peter Dykstra: So you want to be an environmental journalist?

There’s a good argument to be made that environmental journalism internships matter more than most.

You may have noticed last week that EHN posted two notices seeking summer-term reporting internships.


I highly recommend these or just about any other journalism internships. They are:

  • A hands-on, intensively-mentored experience in the real world;
  • A chance to build some bylines or producer credits for your resume;
  • An opportunity to be coached/advised by people who know what they’re doing. Unlike a fair number of college professors.

The EHN internship notices are here and here, the latter one requiring Spanish fluency. And unlike a lot of internships, they pay.

Let me digress, with some paternalistic pride, on presenting a highlight reel of my past interns’ success stories, mostly during my time at CNN:

  • Anderson Cooper’s Senior Executive Producer;
  • The head of Meteorology for CNN International;
  • Two CNN reporters; another for CBC;
  • The Editor-in-Chief of the Thomson-Reuters Foundation (so how old am I when one of my former interns is described as a seasoned journalist?);
  • Chief counsel to a major congressional committee;
  • A prime time meteorologist with the Weather Channel;
  • A respected toxics researcher

I’m really proud of this as a past management weasel. I’ve hosted at least two pairs of interns that have cross-bred, making me an intern grandpappy, five times over.

But enough about me.

Why internships matter

There’s a good argument to be made that environmental journalism internships matter more than most. Stories on the beat can be a train wreck of issues and values: Money, ideology, science, spirituality, history, hegemony, and more.

There are an awful lot of “seasoned journalists” who started reporting on the environment in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, who are now in their 60s, 70s, or 80s. Many of us have slowed down, drifted into academia or public relations (gasp!), taken newspaper buyouts, or died.

The ones who are still in the mix are key to building the next generation, and backfilling the potential institutional memory gap. Internships like EHN’s are key to keeping the flame.

I have a friend who teaches Journalism 101 at a large, extremely ordinary university. Her first-day assignment is designed to develop the research and news-gathering skills in her young charges: Go forth and research Professor X (a colleague whose office is about 20 steps away) and tell me his favorite flavor of ice cream.

In a typical class of 30, she tells me, 29 will carpal tunnel their way into Google, and Prof X’s scant social media presence, and strike out. Typically, one student of 30 will trudge the 20 steps and ask the guy.

Brian Bienkowski is our senior editor and runs the show. Sorry, but I have no idea what his favorite ice cream flavor is. But he shared the good work of three past interns: Huanjia Zhang on farmworkers and glyphosate; Hannah Seo on methane-leaking offshore drill sites; and Krystal Vazquez on heat waves and the disabled.

Do as well, or better, and prep for a probably modest-paying career with its own huge rewards.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: The Climate Reality Project/Unsplash

Biden administration green-lights massive oil terminal
Credit: FracTracker Alliance/Flickr

Biden administration green-lights massive oil terminal, sparking backlash

The Biden administration has sanctioned a vast oil terminal off Texas, drawing ire from environmentalists.

Matthew Daly reports for the Associated Press.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
Ocean temperatures continue to set daily records
Credit: Pexels/Pixabay

Ocean temperatures continue to set daily records

Record-breaking ocean temperatures are prompting scientists to explore underlying causes and potential impacts.

Delger Erdenesanaa reports for The New York Times.

Keep reading...Show less

Freshwater supplies dwindling due to human activity, studies find

Two significant studies reveal how human demand and technological advancements are rapidly depleting the planet's freshwater resources.

Andrew Nikiforuk reports for The Tyee.

Keep reading...Show less

Wild fish host new viruses, including a coronavirus cousin

Researchers have detected multiple new viruses in wild sport fish in Wisconsin, revealing a surprising diversity of pathogens.

Danielle Kaeding reports for Wisconsin Public Radio.

Keep reading...Show less
global health climate impacts
Credit: AlexMax/BigStock Photo ID: 18840950

Climate change impacts immune health globally, leading to an epidemic of diseases

The invisible effects of climate change are disrupting our bodies, notably our immune systems, by contributing to a surge in immune-mediated diseases like allergies and cancer.

Kari Nadeau reports for STAT.

Keep reading...Show less

Economic and environmental strain affects rural Mississippi amid renewable energy push

Economic challenges and environmental worries collide as Mississippi towns turn to the burgeoning wood pellet industry in a bid to revive local economies.

Alex Rozier reports for Mississippi Today.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
plastic treaty

Groups push Biden administration to take leadership role at upcoming plastic treaty talks

The US has taken a “middle of the road position” so far, environmental groups say.

chemical recycling Youngstown

Listen: Why communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are fighting chemical recycling plants

EHN reporter Kristina Marusic discusses her new three-part series on the controversies surrounding chemical recycling.

chemical recycling

Latest chemical recycling plant closing spurs concern over the industry’s viability

Oregon’s Regenyx plant announced its closing in late February, with those involved calling it a success, despite never reaching planned capacity and millions of dollars lost.

plastic treaty

Everything you need to know for the fourth round of global plastic pollution treaty talks

Countries will meet this month in Ottawa to move forward on the historic treaty — but obstacles remain.

zero waste business

Zero- and low-waste businesses band together against plastic pollution

As part of a national coalition, sustainable businesses are pooling resources to fight plastic pollution.

chemical recycling

Residents fear Pennsylvania, West Virginia chemical recycling proposals will deepen fossil fuel ties and pollution problems

"We’d like to be talking about positive things, focusing on our renewable energy future.”

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.