All over the University of Florida campus, researchers grapple with how to meet the world’s ever-increasing need for access to clean, fresh water. For a group that convened at the College of Journalism and Communications in November 2015, however, the challenge was how to convey water issues to the public.
At “Covering Water in a Changing World,” a McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute, journalists from print, digital and broadcast outlets around the country gathered to learn from UF scientists, visiting experts and communications professors, including Ann Christiano, UF’s Karel Endowed Chair for Public Interest Communications, and author Cynthia Barnett, UF’s Environmental Journalist in Residence, who organized the institute.
Over a year later, the lessons from the event continue to inform participants’ coverage, with stories in outlets such as National Public Radio, Bloomberg BNA and the Christian Science Monitor, tapping into the insight they gained on topics like algae blooms, public utilities and extreme weather. Paddling on the Ichetucknee River with scientists, participants saw the links between groundwater and surface water firsthand.
“It's helped me research many stories since,” said Texas-based freelancer Lana Straub, whose story on groundwater pollution aired on the Texas Standard, a group of 20 stations around the state. Straub also worked with reporters she met at the institute to apply for a Spotlight Investigative Journalism Fellowship focusing on water infrastructure. She didn’t win this time, but she’s hoping to gather a team of institute alumni to apply again.