Change: My 2023 word of the year

In pursuit of climate change stories… deep in the Pennsylvania woods.

Happy New Year, dear readers!

Have you ever met one of your heroes? What a great feeling, right?

Last fall, I was journalism fan-girling, because I had the incredible honor of meeting Bill Whitaker. He’s a journalist I have long-admired primarily for his work on “60 Minutes,” but also because—like me—he’s a Philadelphia native.

Whitaker was a featured speaker at the Society of Professional Journalists’ annual conference in Washington, D.C., and at a meet and greet afterwards, I asked him what stories he found most meaningful throughout his career. He replied that the stories he’s currently reporting, in two categories, were ones that he considered the most critically important: stories about threats to the American democracy and stories about climate change.

I could relate. For a full year, throughout 2022, I was researching climate change stories of my own. It stemmed out of my life-long love of the outdoors, an appreciation for the environment, and a growing concern over extreme weather events—many of them deadly. From the current flooding in California to Utah’s Great Salt Lake drying up, western wildfires and coastal erosion along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, it feels like there are a million different climate change ramifications—many of which include animals, habitat, industries, power, transportation, health, and the list goes on and on.

I was curious to know how climate change is affecting Pennsylvania, so I began interviewing experts in the know. I also took an intense, comprehensive Climate Change Journalism course offered last summer by the University of Texas Austin. I wanted to make sure I had a good foundation of knowledge. All of this “investment” has paid off.

I am discovering stories going untold (until now!) in Pennsylvania. I’m grateful to several magazine editors who are accepting my stories and agreeing that this is a vital subject for today. Here’s a link to my first story in a six-part series that will run throughout 2023 in TheBurg magazine, Harrisburg: “Change Agent” focuses on Greg Czarnecki’s work at Pennsylvania’s DCNR and the importance of educating the next generation of “change agents.”

Plus, tune into TheBurg Podcast’s January episode to learn more about climate change from Greg.

Reporting from Camp Krislund, Centre County, between State College and Lock Haven, PA in August of 2022 for a story published this month, January 2023.

On the calendar:

Why are many stories about climate change falling to freelance journalists such as myself? What exactly is climate change science? And how is climate change impacting nearly every facet of daily life? For answers to these questions and much more, go behind-the-scenes with me this Thursday, January 19 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. EST. I’m grateful to the Adams County Arts Council, Gettysburg, for inviting me to speak at their 3rd Thursday Lunch Series. The event is free and open to the public, in-person—or join me online as I live-stream on Facebook. Click the image below to RSVP—hope to see you there, or online!

And stay tuned for additional stories throughout the year, focused on additional facets of climage change.

What else have I been writing about?

It’s a day for the heart, captured in art. Lifelong artist Julie Riker of Camp Hill is saying “I do” to a new line of work as a wedding painter, capturing couples’ wedding scenes on canvas. Check out my feature for Susquehanna Style magazine, “A Masterpiece of Marriage,” in the January issue.

I never realized “grave cleaning” could be both a profession and a calling, before I interviewed Lisa Rawlings for Celebrate Gettysburg magazine. “I truly believe God has a plan for everyone, and my plan is to help people through their grief and to honor their loved ones,” she told me, in describing her unique career. Here’s “Resting Places, Restored,” from the Jan/Feb 2023 issue.

One of my favorite story categories is small business profiles. Also for Celebrate Gettysburg magazine, I wrote about the newly-opened Gettysburg Smoothie Co, in “Giving it a Whirl.” (I highly recommend the Beach Bum, featuring tropical fruit, coconut cream, passion fruit juice, and orange sorbet!)

And one more small business profile that published in December: “Brew Debut” is about Whiskers Brewing—the first brewery in Newville, Pennsylvania, since Prohibition—and how it’s helping the town tap into its community spirit.

Final thoughts and one final fun project:

As a freelance journalist, every single assignment through the year basically adds up to my annual salary. It’s an interesting way to earn a living, and I’ve done it for more than 10 years. While I love the journalism profession, freelancing is not for the faint of heart. It can be a scary financial proposition at times, and there is unfortunately a certain amount of shame and shade some people throw your way as they “look down” upon freelancers (read “outsiders” rather than “staff”). I’ve always approached freelancing as a challenge to prove myself just as good as any staff writer, since the freelance label, in my opinion, does not in fact translate into “less than.”

That being said, in 2022, completely serendipitously, I matched the number of articles I had published in 2021, at 60! That’s an average of five completely researched and reported articles per month. Just for fun, I put together a quick video (15 seconds!) of all my 2022 stories. Check it out, on Instagram Reels, below!

Stay warm this winter—try curling up with a great magazine!

Comment below

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s