Twelve students at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spent their summers working tirelessly on stories about energy issues in America as a part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education known as News21. UNC is one of eight schools participating in this initiative and I am proud to say that I was honored to be a part of the UNC team. We recently launched our stories about topics such as the BP oil spill and the nation’s nuclear controversy and I would love to hear your feedback on our work!
Videographer Lauren Frohne created a short trailer as a preview of the stories that we reported on this year:
Using text, photos, video, graphics and alternative story formats, we focused on documenting “the political, economic, and scientific tensions behind US energy.” It’s a tough topic to say the least, and we quickly realized that everyone has an opinion on the matter.
I actually began my research for my story “The power of water” on the intrinsic connection between energy and water back in January and slowly worked on it over the past six months. The other students had a much faster turn-around time – 10 weeks – but were able to dedicate their entire summers to the reporting and production whereas I had to balance my work with summer courses at Kenan-Flagler Business School.
The biggest take-away I learned throughout this project was the power of teamwork. In comparison to my project last summer on malnutrition where I did not receive any coaching on the story elements, this year was all about collaboration. My text article was revised more than 10 times by six different editors. I received advice on my video story from Chad A. Stevens, Bob Sacha, Brian Storm and Nacho Corbella – arguably four of the most talented visual storytellers out there. I teamed with videographer Mike Ehrlich to get priceless water footage for our video “Quenching Americans’ thirst.” I tossed around gaming ideas with graphic artist Anna Carrington who then designed and programmed “Balancing act: the energy/water challenge,” a fun game similar to Sim City where the user has to manage water and energy supplies while expanding a town.
While I am pleased with my story, I am even more proud of the culmination of all of our hard work seen throughout all of the stories.
The videographers teamed together to produce “Spilling over,” a heart-wrenching story about a family affected by the oil spill. Writers and graphic artists collaborated on “Blackout on the hill,” an in-depth report on the politics of energy. One team of students researched the conflict surrounding nuclear energy for the well-rounded package “Nuclear properties,” while another team documented one man’s entrepreneurial efforts in the alternative energy sector for the story “Manufacturing change.” Lastly, researchers and programmers analyzed U.S. carbon emissions data, energy costs and demand statistics to construct an “energy cocktail” where users attempt to balance U.S.’s energy portfolio in 2020.
We had an excellent team of coaches, editors, and staff throughout the project so a big thanks goes out to everyone involved!
Another big lesson I learned is that when you put a bunch of passionate people in one room together, exceptional things are bound to happen. I personally believe that this was the case for our group, and I look forward to seeing if the same was true from the other seven schools involved in the grant.