Point Park to offer new environmental journalism degree

Written By Josh Croup

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Point Park University is introducing a new Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Journalism.

The new program, scheduled to launch in the fall, is made possible through a grant from 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,” said Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments in a press release.

The degree program will integrate basic journalism training with data analysis techniques. The School of Communication and Department of Natural Sciences and Engineering Technology are partnering to provide students with courses in biology, ecology and environmental science.

According to the Society of Environmental Journalists, there are only three other universities in the country with similar programs. Today, the Society of Environmental Journalists includes more than 1,200 members.

The program will utilize the new $2.5 million Center for Media Innovation, also scheduled to open this year.

“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 in a press release. “Armed with the tools to provide critical, unbiased reporting, these students will gain a heightened awareness and better understanding of practices impacting the environment.”

Each year, Point Park will host a professional journalist-in-residence to collaborate with students on projects. 

Simulating the work of existing journalists is one of three primary goals of the program, along with engaging the community and preparing future generations of environmental journalists.

According to the press release, events about environmental issues, a website and newsletter with students’ work will be available to the general public. A priority of the program is to have students’ work picked up by professional media outlets.

“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 nonprofit environmental groups working to protect the health of our communities,” said Thom Baggerman, chair of the School of Communication in the press release.

Environmental issues in the news recently include climate change, the Marcellus Shale drilling method known as fracking and the Flint, Mich., water crisis.

Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter from the American Civil Liberties Union who exposed the dangers of the water in Flint, helped launch the program Tuesday night with his presentation “From Flint to your Facuet.”

Guyette’s presentation, hosted by the Point Park News Service, was followed up by a panel discussion about the environmental aspects of the crisis.

Oliphant said in the press release the importance of training new journalists to tackle environmental issues. 

“The need is as critical as ever for skilled and authentic investigative and explanatory journalism,” Oliphant said. “Helping to inform and safeguard the well-being of our citizens is integral to a healthy democracy, and environmental issues, especially, are at the forefront of concerns in many communities across our nation.”