By Finn Hopkins
Two Michigan State University School of Journalism students recently were named finalists in a national environmental journalism contest.
Winners of each of five categories of Planet Forward’s Storyfest will be announced on April 20th. Each category winner has the opportunity to travel to Iceland with Lindblad Expeditions to report on the environment with an expert team aboard the National Geographic Resolution.
Recent MSU graduate Cassidy Hough is a finalist in the “Best Use of Science or Data” category of Planet Forward’s Storyfest 2023 contest.
Cameryn Cass, who graduates this spring, is a finalist in the same contest’s category for “Best Scalable Innovation.”
Planet Forward is an environmental media non-profit organization run by George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs in Washington DC.
Hough’s entry, “Perennial Grains are the future of sustainable agriculture,” was produced for the Food Fix, a podcast she hosted for MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. She reported on the innovative work researchers are doing to create perennial grains. These crops do not need to be replanted every year and could help fight climate change.
“I love the opportunity to talk about the past, present, and future of agriculture,” said Hough, who now teaches people with traumatic brain injuries to farm as a form of therapy. “I didn’t really know anyone else was going to love it as much as I did.”
Cass’s entry, “An ancient building material could be the wave of the future,” was published by the Knight Center’s Great Lakes Echo news service and by several other Michigan news organizations. The story examined the environmental benefits and challenges of using mass timber construction.
She discovered she is a finalist while studying abroad in Australia.
“It was 3 a.m. my time when (the notification) arrived, so I didn’t see it for a few hours,” Cass said. “I woke up and I was just like ‘No way!’ I Facetimed my mom right away. (I was) just so geeked about it.”
The submissions are judged by an independent panel of experts ranging from professional journalists to professors in environmental communication. Finalists are invited to the Planet Forward Summit at George Washington University, where they’ll attend workshops and hear from guest speakers like Katie Orlinsky, a photographer for National Geographic. Winners of the Storyfest contest are announced at the event.
“We’re just really excited to see some traction at Michigan State,” said Aaron Dye, a multimedia editor at Planet Forward. “We’re beyond excited that two of the students there are finalists and the stories have just been so good this year.”
The nominations are sources of pride for MSU, Cass said. “I’m just so proud of us to be two MSU students doing this. I think it’s kind of beautiful. It’s really exciting.”
The nomination has inspired Hough to continue her pursuit of a career in journalism.
“Since being recognized by Planet Forward, I now have proof that I might have what it takes to be a big name in agriculture journalism,” she said. “That was enough to get me back to a farm to expand my knowledge of the field.”