Did you know that in the state of Indiana, with 6 million people, there’s just a handful of journalists covering the environment?
Carbon Neutral Indiana is working on changing that with a program that sponsors Purdue University students to report on the climate and greenhouse gas using solutions journalism.
“This program increases climate coverage and shifts that coverage to solutions. Many people despair about climate change. Solutions journalism reminds us of our agency and God-given, miraculous power of imagination. It also points the way to the exhilarating, emerging field of climate tech, which can become Indiana's next biotech,” Daniel Poynter, founder of Carbon Neutral Indiana, told Indiana Environmental Reporter.
Last fall, the program started with one student and now it has expanded to six. Each student receives funding, $500 per semester, and a network of connections.
“The environment is such a big topic. At Carbon Neutral Indiana, all we focus on is carbon, so the reporting is in line with that.”
Solutions journalism shows how people respond to problems, what’s working, what’s not, and why.
“A climate solutions reporter is not writing just feel-good stuff. We’re not trying to be soft and we’re also not trying to shame people. We’re trying to spotlight opportunities that are occurring in the bigger picture,” Poynter said. “For example. Can Purdue reduce its emissions? Can we implement at Purdue what’s been implemented elsewhere.”
Under this program, PU’s independent student newspaper, The Exponent, which is published twice a week, should have an in-depth climate article in almost every issue.
“The truth is that a lot of local papers are encountering fairly significant financial challenges. This is true for the local paper here. For many stories, The Exponent might be the only local media covering that particular climate angle. If the Exponent doesn’t cover it, there is a non-zero chance that it will go uncovered,” Lucas Bleyle, Purdue student and climate reporter for the Purdue Exponent, told Indiana Environmental Reporter.
Bleyle, a junior, will continue with his job as a climate reporter next year.
“Local climate change coverage helps make the climate impacts and solutions more visible to students and residents,” Bleyle said. “This type of reporting is critical in helping the West Lafayette and Purdue community make informed decisions as they grapple with climate change.”
He added that the hope is to create a program that becomes built into The Exponent as an organization so that it can serve readers for many years, if not decades, to come.
“While the program receives financial support from CNI, all of the reporting is done independently and with a high-level journalistic integrity. CNI has no ability to influence the content of the stories,” Bleyle said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the sponsorships can contact CNI here.
“Once this goes well at Purdue, we want the program at all universities in the state,” Poynter said. “If anyone is interested in sponsorship, they can contact us. We would like to expand.”