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The Green Life: Green Careers: Environmental Journalism

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March 19, 2013

Green Careers: Environmental Journalism

Environmental journalistStumped on a career path? Itching to explore new job opportunities? Yesterday we posted a quiz to help you get started. Today we launch our series of green career profiles with a glimpse into environmental journalism.

Green Careers: Environmental Journalism

Environmental journalists inform and engage the public about important environmental issues. Whether it’s climate change, dirty coal plants, or genetically modified crops, the public wants to stay abreast of possible threats to their environment and their implications for human and ecological health. Reporters should be able to explain developments related to these issues clearly, fairly, objectively, and engagingly, without relying on sensationalism or jargon. Their stories should serve to improve the dialogue among journalists, scientists, policymakers, and the public.

Journalism is a fast-paced career. Day-to-day schedules can vary. On any given day, journalists will spend time researching, interviewing sources, writing stories, using social media, photographing, filming, and/or editing video. Deadline pressure can vary depending on where they work (i.e., a daily newspaper versus a monthly magazine) and whether their story is time-sensitive.

Amid shrinking newsrooms, environmental journalists need to know how to tell stories across multiple platforms, from online to radio to video. Eagerness to embrace technological developments and new forms of storytelling is a must. 

Salaries vary by region and publication, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage of broadcast news analysts was $54,140 in May 2010, while that of reporters and correspondents was $34,530 in May 2010.

You don't need an undergraduate major in journalism to succeed as a journalist. In fact, several employers prefer that candidates develop a specialty outside of journalism. For example, an environmental sciences degree could help you report environmental issues in a more insightful, nuanced way.

Some graduate programs train journalists specifically in science and environmental journalism, such as New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Science Communication Program.  The University of Montana launched its Master’s Program in Environmental and Natural Resource Journalism in 2010.

But regardless of whether you decide to take the grad school route, experience is key. Start writing environmental stories for a campus publication or freelancing for your local neighborhood newspaper. JournalismJobs.com regularly posts a number of freelance positions. In your cover letter, pitch a few story ideas. Build an online presence by starting a blog, vlog, or podcast. For inspiration, read environmental blogs and websites like Sierra magazine, Grist, and Mother Nature Network, and follow them and your favorite environmental journalists on Twitter. Retweet their stories--they might even return the favor. Once you have a few clips, or work samples, join a professional society, like the Society of Environmental Journalists, to expand your network.

One of the best ways to gain experience?  An internship. And this year, the Sierra Club is selecting two college students or recent graduates for the Best Internship on Earth. One intern will film and produce video, while another will bring on-camera talent. Together, they’ll document an adventure shaped by their interests. Past itineraries have included marching in the Puerto Rican Day parade and surveying ancient artifacts on an archaeological dig during a service trip in Utah.  

Interns will also get the opportunity to work with the Sierra Club’s communications team in San Francisco, California to edit their video, blog about their travels, and promote an appreciation of nature using different media resources.

Besides a stipend and all-expenses paid travel, the Best Interns will receive $1000 worth of merchandise provided by the North Face. The top ten finalists will each receive a pair of Lems Shoes.

The ideal candidate is passionate about the environment and being outside, open to new experiences, a skilled storyteller, experienced with video software and production, and highly engaged with their online community.  To apply, students and recent graduates over age 18 (as of May 15, 2013) must submit a 60-90 second video clip showcasing their love for the outdoors and why they want to intern with the Sierra Club.

Submit an application for the Best Internship on Earth by 5:00 p.m. PDT on April 19.

Watch the video below to learn more:


Read More:

Green Your Media: The Best Green Blogs

Documentary Goes "Deep Down" for Human and Environmental Conflict

Rebuilding Environmental Journalism

CNN Cuts Back on Science Coverage

Sierra magazine's editorial internship program

Image by iStockphoto/Joe Gough

HS_Melissa_BLOGMelissa Pandika is an editorial intern at Sierra and a graduate journalism student at Stanford University. Her interests include environmental health and justice, urban environmental issues, and conservation biology. She has a soft spot for cetaceans.


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