Category Archives: Classes


Although the lab course numbers remain the same, topics change semester to semester. Check MSU’s schedule of courses for the latest information. The three-credit courses can be taken more than once.
Completion requirements for the graduate 800 level courses are greater than those of the undergraduate 400 level courses.
 
JRN 472/872 Lab Environmental Reporting
This course gives students hands on experience producing environmental news stories. Class-produced stories meeting professional standards are published on the center’s award-winning Great Lakes Echo non-profit news service. Students have analyzed the ecological footprint of Spartan Stadium and the pollution inputs into the Red Cedar River. They have waded in rivers to examine macroinvertebrates, analyzed and mapped data and explored creative reader engagement techniques such as this one modeled after Jaywalking on the Tonight Show or this one that gives clues to polluted sites. Others include the Great Lakes Smackdown and the popular carp bombs. The course offers a great way to pick up clips and experience. Story types vary by student interest and skill but can encompass text, audio, photography, video and creative reader engagement strategies. Topics vary semester to semester and students can take the course more than once and for variable credit.
In the fall of 2013 the course is called News eye in the clear sky. Students will shoot video from an aerial drone while exploring the exciting opportunities and thorny ethical and legal challenges of new ways of perceiving the environment with satellite imagery, drones and other remote sensing techniques. And they will look at some of the newsworthy aspects of the other civilian applications of such technology.
 
JRN 473/873 Seminar in environmental journalism
The course focuses on news media reporting of environmental, scientific and health issues. The seminar is mostly guided by the following question: How can journalists deal with scientific uncertainty and the inherent complexities of environmental and health issues? The discussions cover topics such as: journalists’ role conceptions, journalistic norms, environmental discourses in popular culture, use of expert sources, reporters’ beliefs and perceptions, organizational constraints, and the gap between journalistic and scientific cultures, among others. We discuss historical and current issues where science has played a central role in their media reporting. These issues include, among others: energy, smoking, climate change, ozone layer hole, GMOs, hydraulic fracturing, population growth, and natural disasters.
 
Elsewhere within the School of Journalism
Students are encouraged to explore environmental reporting in the context of other journalism classes such as feature writing, multi-media production, broadcast, Capital News Service and public affairs classes. Instructors of such classes often collaborate with the Knight Center.
 
Elsewhere at MSU
Both graduate and undergraduate students interested in environmental reporting are encouraged to broaden their knowledge of environmental science and policy by exploring related coursework at MSU. This is required of undergraduates seeking an environmental concentration and of masters students pursuing the environmental option.
Among the Knight Center affiliated programs at MSU are the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment for undergraduates and the university’s Environmental Science and Policy Program for graduate students.
  

 

Journalism students study cross-border environmental problems in Port Huron

Environmental reporting students on the beach at Lakeport State Park

Students in Knight Center director Eric Freedman’s Environmental Reporting class spent a day in Port Huron, Michigan, to explore transborder U.S.-Canadian environmental problems, including the continuing cleanup of a toxic hot spot and the threat of invasive species.

Such problems – along with extreme weather events, air and water pollution, climate warming, wildfires and the like – pay no attention to national borders or political jurisdictions.

The St. Clair River separates Port Huron from Sarnia, Ontario. Both cities are on Lake Huron.

Learning about native plants along the Blue Water River Walk

The recent field visit, supported by a grant from MSU’s Canadian Studies Center, began with a 1-mile hike along the Blue Water River Walk led by Shari Faust and Lynnea McFadden of the Friends of the St. Clair River.

Running for about 40 miles, the river connects Lake Huron with Lake St. Clair.

The U.S. and Canada jointly designated it as an Area of Concern because of contamination from heavy metals, toxic organic, and E. coli bacteria that sparked fish consumption advisories, beach closings and degraded habitat for native wildlife and fish, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sarnia’s Chemical Valley across the St. Clair River from Port Huron’s Blue Water River Walk

Ambling along the river walk – a former railroad switch yard that is now a 10-foot-wide county park – we saw commercial ships plying the St. Clair’s waters, as well as the sprawl of refineries and other industrial operations on the Ontario shore in an area known as Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.

The river walk goes through a partially restored coastal wetland and includes sculptures, a fishing pier, an early 20th century railroad ferry dock, interpretive signs and native plants – plus some invasive plants that members of the Friends group volunteer to pull out.

Armor stone reefs and spawning beds have been placed in the river to create fish habitat.

From there, the group drove to the 565-acre Lakeport State Park on the Lake Huron shore. It was past prime park season, so there were few campers in view.

Sitting in the shade at a picnic table, the students talked with Christina Haska Baugher, an aquatic invasive species biologist at the Department of Natural Resources, who described the damage done to the Great Lakes by invaders and the difficulties in trying to control them.

The final stop was at Anderson’s Pro Bait where owner Joel Anderson discussed changes in Lake Huron fishing activities.

Arancay: A place that preserves its nature and customs 

The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism recently taught an online environmental journalism to a group of university students in Peru. This is one of the stories produced during that effort. The program was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Lima.

By Antonnela Bendaño Guzmán  

Arancay

Meza J. (2022). “Arancay: A place that preserves its nature and customs”.

Arancay,  located in the province of Huamalíes, department of Huánuco in Peru, derives its name from the genus of arachnid that abounded there because the Arampacay is similar to the common tarantula. 

The town consists of an area of 158.33 square kilometers at an altitude of 3,050 meters with 2,053 residents.  

In this town, you can observe its beautiful nature trapped in time, with its mountains, some covered with a nice green color, some reddish and others that stand out for the silvery glow of their rocks. Its vegetation is abundant, especially the huge eucalyptus, a medicinal plant widely used to treat colds. 

Arancay is surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Marañon River with a  dry temperate climate. 

The place retains its nineteenth century architecture, adobe houses with wooden balconies and red roofs.  

Arancay

When I visited in July 2022 for Peru’s national holidays, I was surprised by the warmth of its people and the fact that they still maintain their customs, such as the Huarahua dance Campish de Arancay which is a warrior dance. 

There are also medieval competitions such as the race of ribbons on horseback and the bullfight in which they only play but do not kill.  The most surprising thing about this place is that there is no pollution because there is little mobility of means of transport, which do not emit pollutants.  

Talking with one of the inhabitants, he told me many stories and legends of Arancay. One of them is about the ruins of a place that people do not approach because they have seen a giant snake that guards it.  

He also told me that, in the past, the inhabitants had to walk since there was no road,  and to make a short trip, they had to pass by the edge of a lagoon called Negrococha lagoon. They gave it that name  because in the middle  is a black statue.  

He told us that they stopped walking along the edge of the lagoon because people who passed by there disappeared, and even if they were tied up with rope, one of them always disappeared.  

This could be described as a place to be visited, to breathe fresh air, to see a rainbow and at night to appreciate the brightness of the stars and constellations.  

Finally, I acquired information about nature, environment, cultures and people, and I learned to write about my experiences in environmental journalism.

 

International reporting tips from the Society of Environmental Journalists conference

Editor’s note: This is the 3rdt in a series of posts by environmental reporting students on things they learned at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference.

By Audrey Porter

At the international reporting meet-up at the recent virtual Society of Environmental Journalists conference, the speakers gave introductions about themselves, including job titles and locations where they work.

Audrey Porter

But, surprisingly, they wanted to hear a lot about me as I wanted to learn more about them. I spoke and got a little advice about international reporting.

One was speaking world languages when traveling. A speaker mentioned that there are  a lot of ethics questions that you have to consider when you’re going between languages, when you’re jumping around places.

I responded by mentioning I took an anthropology class that talked about international traveling and how, in many countries, some things we say and do in America are not okay everywhere. So, if you’re doing international news, study the place you’re going and learn their language.

Another speaker added that getting good connections to people who  can help you with translators and other things  is the best first value in figuring out how to learn the language as a journalist. Continue reading

Switching perspective: Changing from victim to solver

Editor’s note: This is the 2nd in a series of posts by environmental reporting students on things they learned at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference.

By Yue Jiang

Yue Jiang

I was born in Beijing, a city that is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is a bit far from the ocean. I never saw an ocean until I was 11 years old. At that time, I visited the sea as a tourist or more like a spectator.

Neither do I live near the ocean, so why should I care about it? Those questions popped up when I was in geography class in my middle school.

One of our mandatory homework assignments was to recite and repeat the names of the seven oceans in the world. I didn’t know why they required me to do it, but I was glad to get points on my quiz. I used to think that the seven oceans stood for grades in my exam.

However, one thing changed my mind forever. I visited one of my friends whose campus was near the sea, which is famous for angling and birdwatching. My friend and I saw an aquatic diving bird at its last gasp with fishing line wrapped around its wings. We couldn’t save it, even if we cut the fishing line and called the conservation center.

The moment you watch life passing is always a turning point to think about something. I was afraid that the sea could be full of fishing line, which is a nightmare for most marine organisms.

Where does fishing line come from? From humans. Who leaves it in the sea? Humans. In my mind, the human impact on oceans is negative all the time.

With the severity of global warming, high sea levels have become a prevalent issue. I feel like more and more media intend to consider the ocean as victim and the human as inflictor.

In a workshop “Oceans, Coasts and the 2020 Election” at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists online conference, Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, a world-renowned environmental scientist, referred to a dominant narrative that oceans are now higher, warmer and more acidic. With less oxygen, they also are less productive and less predictable, based on the 2019 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. Those stories and articles are strong evidence to prove my prejudice. I became radical and polarized. Continue reading