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

Why a “fracking refugee” is attending the global plastics treaty negotiations
Jill Hunkler is pictured in front of the Shaw Centre, where the plastic treaty negotiations are taking place. Credit: Allison Woolverton.

Why a “fracking refugee” is attending the global plastics treaty negotiations

“Fracking and building pipelines in order to create more poisonous plastic is ruining people’s lives.”

Jill Hunkler, an Ohio resident who considers herself a “fracking refugee,” is telling her family’s story at the global plastics treaty negotiations in Ottawa this week, where negotiators from about 175 countries are working to advance a treaty to address global plastic pollution.

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

​Half of the world's plastic pollution can be traced back to 56 companies​

New research shows a few multinational companies, including Philip Morris International and Coca-Cola, are major contributors to global plastic pollution, a study finds.

Sofia Quaglia reports for The Guardian.

Keep reading...Show less
Houston's toxic petrochemical exports
Credit: Louis Vest/Flickr

Opinion: Houston's petrochemical exports fuel Europe's growing plastics crisis

Europe grapples with escalating plastic pollution, driven by petrochemical imports from Texas. A recent report by Amnesty International shows how some of these imported petrochemical products are linked to environmental racism, and calls for more stringent rules to restrict the proliferation of polluting plastics.

Alysha Khambay writes in euobserver.

Keep reading...Show less
Reflexiones de la próxima generación sobre el mes de la Tierra
Credit: masplashti /Unsplash

Reflexiones de la próxima generación sobre el mes de la Tierra

HOUSTON — En homenaje al Día de la Tierra, EHNe está publicando cartas de estudiantes del octavo grado de YES Prep Northbrook Middle School en el barrio de Spring Branch, Texas, que está en el área de Houston.

Keep reading...Show less

Hydrogen industry growth lags behind U.S. climate targets

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlights the slow growth of the clean hydrogen industry, posing challenges to achieving U.S. climate goals.

Christian Robles andCarlos Anchondo report for E&E News.

Keep reading...Show less

Climate crisis fuels mosquito disease spread in Europe, expert argues

Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever are increasing in Europe due to global warming, according to an expert.

Helena Horton reports for The Guardian.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
youth climate change

"Our lives might be on the line"

Eighth graders reflect on the state of the planet.

sargassum

After 13 years, no end in sight for Caribbean sargassum invasion

Thousands of people were hurt by sargassum blooms last year in the Caribbean.

youth climate change

“We should take care of what is precious to us"

Eighth graders reflect on the state of the planet.

earth day 2024

Earth Day reflections from the next generation

This week we're featuring essays from Houston-area eighth graders to hear what the youth think about the state of our planet.

New EPA regulations mean a closer eye on the nation’s petrochemical hub

New EPA regulations mean a closer eye on the nation’s petrochemical hub

Houston’s fenceline communities welcome stricter federal rules on chemical plant emissions but worry about state compliance.

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