School of Communication

Fall 2016: Point Park Offering Region's First Environmental Journalism Program

Monday, April 11, 2016

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Beginning fall 2016, Point Park University in Downtown Pittsburgh is offering the region's first Bachelor of Arts in environmental journalism program. 

The new program — made possible through a grant from The Heinz Endowments — provides the core foundation of journalism and environmental science training and hands-on experience via a partnership with Point Park's School of Communication and Department of Natural Sciences and Engineering Technology.

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“Point Park University is in a unique position through its Center for Media Innovation to partner with The Heinz Endowments and train a new generation of environmental journalists,” said Point Park President Paul Hennigan. “Armed with the tools to provide critical, unbiased reporting, these students will gain a heightened awareness and better understanding of practices impacting the environment.”

Issues such as the Flint, Mich., water crisis, fracking in the Marcellus Shale and climate change continue to make headlines and dominate political discussion.

“The need is as critical as ever for skilled and authentic investigative and explanatory journalism,” said Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments. “Point Park has developed a powerful learning opportunity for journalism students, and the Endowments is delighted to partner with the University on this new and exciting program of environmental journalism.”

A limited number of educational institutions offer the kind of training necessary to develop investigative journalists who can present all sides of increasingly complex environmental stories to the general public. The Society of Environmental Journalists lists only three other universities nationwide on its website with comparable programs.

“Point Park is in a prime position to offer a needed educational program — at the undergraduate and graduate levels — in a city that has experienced its own environmental renaissance, and is home to more than 30 non-profit environmental groups working to protect the health of our communities,” said Thom Baggerman, Ph.D., chair of faculty for the School of Communication.

Environmental Journalism Program Goals

  • Prepare future generations of environmental journalists: Students will be mentored by leading experts and practitioners in the field. A priority will be placed on opportunities to have students’ work considered by professional media outlets for publication, broadcast and distribution.

  • Engage the broader community: Events surrounding environmental issues will be open to the general public, while a website and newsletter will provide access to the students’ work. An online portal cataloging government data sites, reliable research and shared data sets will serve as a resource not only students, but also professionals and the general public.

  • Stimulate the work of existing journalists: A professional journalist-in-residence will be hosted each year and will work with students on collaborative projects and in the classroom. The program will offer networking opportunities among professional media organizations, and hold events that will target professional journalists, as well as students and the general public.

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