The Eastern Kentucky University SPJ chapter hosted the first-ever Kentucky Environmental Journalism Conference on Nov. 13, 2009 on the EKU campus. The conference, funded by an SPJ programming grant and the university’s Student Government Association, featured journalists, environmental activists, researchers and professors from across the state.
The conference was organized in a panel discussion format, with panels focusing on environmental research, water issues in Kentucky, covering coal and agriculture as an environmental issue.
Panel members included Bill Estep, Lexington Herald-Leader staff writer, Kristen Espeland Gourlay, environmental reporter for Louisville’s NPR member station; Ronica Shannon, The Richmond Register staff writer; and Andy Mead, Lexington Herald-Leader staff writer.
Highlighting the event was a keynote address by Lexington Herald-Leader former managing editor and current columnist Tom Eblen.
Eblen, who labeled environmental journalists “endangered,” said this particular group of specialty journalists is in danger of becoming extinct. In spite of an economy that is hindering journalism’s scope, Eblen encouraged the reporting of environmental issues.
“It’s important for us as journalists to realize that the environment is a story that affects everything,” Eblen said. “Almost every story really does have an environmental angle.”
Almost 100 people from Kentucky universities and media outlets attended.