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Environmental reporting is a difficult field

LANSING – Environmental journalism is a difficult yet important field, says a freelance journalist who will speak at an upcoming environmental festival in Manistee.

“Sometimes you’re asking people difficult questions,” said Genevieve Fox, who writes for Planet Detroit, Metromode and the Keel. “A lot of times you’re talking to scientists and researchers, and sometimes they can have a hard time communicating what they mean because they’re so focused into their work.”

Fox, who graduated from Michigan State University in 2023, primarily covers issues in the Detroit area. She is among the speakers at the April 19-21 Great Lakes Environmental Festival which will showcase films, musical performances, technological innovations, articles and speeches from people in environmental-related fields.

The April 19-21 festival at Manistee High School is intended to generate public interest in caring for the environment and conversations surrounding climate change, said Ziggy Kozicki, the festival organizer and a professor of population health at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Fox’s most recent story on artificial beaver dams appeared in Outdoor News. One of her favorite stories is about dogs that sniff out spotted lantern flies, an invasive insect that damages native plants.

“We forget how useful and resourceful dogs are sometimes, I think,” Fox said.

Another favorite is about a tree-planting event in her hometown of Hazel Park. The event was part of a movement to increase the number of green spaces in urban areas, specifically Detroit.

She said there was a strong sense of community.

“It felt so interconnected,” Fox said. “I like that personal connection that you can sometimes have in smaller communities.”

Fox will speak on the first day of the festival about the importance of environmental journalism to high school students.

“The environment impacts every sector in our lives, from health, education, every single point you could ever think of, everything falls back to the environment,” she said.

Fox plans to speak to students about her experience as a former staff writer for Great Lakes Echo. MSU’s regional environmental news service, and freelancing for Michigan news outlets such as Planet Detroit, Metromode, The Keel, Outdoor News and Second Wave Media.

Students will be able to ask questions about what a career in journalism is like and how she got into the profession – “just whatever general curious questions they have and guidance I can give them essentially,” she said.

Fox said she has always loved writing. She wrote for her high school’s yearbook and once she got to college she began writing for MSU’s Her Campus, an online magazine. She switched her major to journalism from environmental studies and sustainability and worked as an environmental reporter for WKAR while a student.

Fox said she wants to emphasize the urgency and importance of getting environmental-related information to the public, especially solutions for environmental issues.

“If we don’t learn how to take care of (the environment) or lessen these environmental impacts, then we’re not going to be left with much,” she said.

Difficulties of environmental reporting include people’s preconceived notions and beliefs about issues such as climate change, she said. Another challenge is explaining scientific concepts and studies to the general public.

“A lot of people sometimes might have assumptions about certain things or a lot of people don’t understand science either,” she said. “As communicators of science, I think it’s important for us to find a way to make it so a lot of people will listen or reel it in.”

People are more likely to listen when issues are localized, she said. It allows them to see an issue’s greater impact.

On the second day of the festival, Fox will give a presentation about environmental reporting trends in Michigan, challenges surrounding environmental reporting, finding and reporting on solutions and advocacy.

Kozicki said he hopes the festival will inspire people to alter their lifestyles with the benefit of the environment in mind and find ways to connect with the public to incentivize more sustainable practices.

“The reason that we started the festival in the first place is that we want to get people to imagine that there are solutions and that these solutions can happen,” Kozicki said. “I think it’s just a matter of getting it going.”

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