University of Vermont

University Communications

UVM and Vermont Law School to Co-Host Major Environmental Journalism Conference in 2006

Release Date: 07-22-2004

Author: Cheryl Ann Dorschner
Phone: 802/656-4308 Fax: (802) 656-3203

The University of Vermont and Vermont Law School will host some of the nation's leading environmental journalists October 25-29, 2006, when the annual Society of Environmental Journalists conference comes to Burlington, Vt. The conference is expected to draw more than 600 participants, including editors and reporters from top newspapers, radio, and television.

A public program featuring national journalists and Vermont environmental experts will be held Friday, July 23, at 3:30 P.M., to mark Vermont's conference award. The public is invited to "Big Picture, Small Frame: Challenges in Environmental Journalism" at the Manor on the fifth floor of the Waterman Building (corner of South Prospect and College Streets) on the UVM green.

"Big Picture, Small Frame" will examine how reporters and editors approach the complexities of environmental news. Panelists will discuss how to include the themes, patterns, and larger issues while covering stories that unfold in small events over time. They will also consider why values-based points of view such as "the precautionary principle" so often go missing from U.S. news reports on environmental issues in the public interest.

The panel presentation, co-sponsored by the Society of Environmental Journalists, UVM, and VLS, will feature media criticism and examples drawn from specific issues in the news. Speakers will include Mary Watzin, director of the UVM Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Center; Patrick Parenteau, director of the VLS Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic; and SEJ board members Dan Fagin of Newsday; Christy George, Oregon Public Broadcasting; Mark Neuzil, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN; and Tim Wheeler, Baltimore Sun.

SEJ is a membership organization of journalists and educators dedicated to improving environmental news reporting. SEJ was founded in 1990 and has more than 1,300 members.

As host institutions for the 2006 conference, UVM and VLS will provide the SEJ with program ideas, tour opportunities, educational resources, and support.

The 2006 conference, based at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in South Burlington, will explore issues of national, international, and regional importance. Conference organizers are planning to make use of Vermont's wealth of environmental know-how and environmentally significant landscapes. A trip to the Northeast Kingdom, for example, may introduce journalists to the challenges facing northern forests, while Lake Champlain may illustrate aquatic ecology and water rights concerns. Cross border, field-study trips to neighboring Quebec and the Adirondacks are also under consideration.

SEJ Executive Director Beth Parke comments, "We're very excited to be able to bring SEJ's annual conference to Vermont in 2006 to explore the region's world-renowned reputation for environmental leadership and stewardship. It's a great opportunity for SEJ to be able to work with UVM and VLS as partners and co-hosts in this effort. We recognize and appreciate the remarkable strengths of both UVM and VLS. "

The SEJ conference is a major event, held in a different part of the country every year. Attendees include representatives from major media (The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc.), freelancers, and a growing international contingent. The conference is a valuable opportunity for host cities and states to show off their environmental expertise while focusing on regional stories and issues.

Visiting journalists will spend up to five days in Vermont and will travel to selected locations. Previous conference hosts include UCLA, the University of Arizona, Michigan State University, Duke University, and the University of Maryland.

UVM is well on its way to becoming the nation's premier environmental university with programs and research in stream and lake ecology, sustainable agriculture and forestry, and environmental toxicology that span natural resources, agriculture, engineering, business, medicine and other fields. UVM is home to the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory on the shores of Lake Champlain, and the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics.

Through its Environmental Law Center, VLS offers the nation's most comprehensive curriculum of environmental law courses, and its environmental law program is regularly ranked as the best in the nation in the "U.S. News and World Report" annual survey of legal educators in the field. In 2002, the Environmental Law Center received the American Bar Association Award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy, in recognition of the center's "significant leadership in improving the substance, process or understanding of environmental protection and sustainable development." To link to a version of this announcement with photos, visit