• Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

How We Got the Story: Meet the Climate Community

ByRandall B. Phelps

Jul 10, 2022

By hiring a full-time climate change reporter this summer, the Daily Herald launched its effort to take a global story and bring it home to the suburbs.

We consider global warming to be one of the most important and pressing topics of our time, and we seek to narrow down the issue to help readers understand how our sources of water, weather, and electricity are affected. at the local level – and how governments are responding.

So far, we’ve looked at where our plastic recycling is going, what locals think about climate change, and how the solar industry is trying to grow its workforce to prepare for new power generation.

How did we get these stories? It all starts with the sources.

Stepping into my role at the Herald, I came with a myriad of experiences, but reporting on the climate was not one of them. Faced with an unfamiliar beat, I set out to meet the climate community, because if there’s one thing I know about journalism, it’s that stories are human.

There are conservationists, scientists, legislators, community members and more. My first week at the Herald was spent sending as many emails and making as many calls as possible, asking people to share their thoughts, experiences, and questions with me.

With those conversations under my belt and a growing spreadsheet of sources at my fingertips, I was able to get started.

Almost every story idea comes from someone in the community: The plastic recycling story came from an informal conversation I had with an environmental issues volunteer. The article examining how people in the Chicago area view climate change was started by a source who sent me the data from Yale University. The story about solar industry workers is derived from an email about clean energy infrastructure training at Elk Grove Village.


Once I have an idea, I enter the research phase, gathering context, facts and data from independent sources.

Then I talk to more people – government authorities, academics, advocates and more – to help me get the full picture and answer as many questions as possible in the time and press space available to me. allocated.

With a month behind me, I am far from done meeting with the Chicago area climate community. There are endless people to meet and conversations to have. I’m going to learn a lot along the way and I’m excited to bring Daily Herald readers with me.

• Jenny Whidden is a climate change and environment writer and works with the Daily Herald as part of a partnership with Report For America. To contribute to project costs, see https://www.reportforamerica.org/newsrooms/daily-herald-4/