Category Archives: Students

Journalism and non-journalism students at Michigan State University explore how to better report environmental issues to the public at the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.

Preparing to enter the Red Cedar River

Environmental journalism courses can help students meet the School of Journalism’s elective requirements. They can also be used as part of an environmental theme to complete the school’s concentration requirement by combining them with environment-related courses outside the journalism program. See your academic adviser or contact the Knight Center.
Non-journalism students interested in environmental issues are encouraged to contact instructors to discuss waiver of pre-requisites. Often a journalism environmental course may meet communication course requirements of other departments.
EJA gathering for review session
Undergraduates are also encouraged to join the student Environmental Journalism Association and write for Great Lakes Echo to gain resume-building experience and clips.
Undergraduate students are eligible for several awards and scholarships in environmental journalism.
They are encouraged to augment their study with environment classes and programs elsewhere at MSU such as the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment.

Knight Center student reports on the environment for Interlochen Public Radio

Max Johnston, center kneeling, reported on the environment as an intern for Interlochen Public Radio.

Max Johnston, center kneeling, reported on the environment as an intern for Interlochen Public Radio.

By Rianna Middleton

Michigan-native Maxwell Johnston, a journalism fifth-year senior, had never been farther north than Grand Rapids until last summer when he interned for Interlochen Public Radio, a small Northwest Michigan news organization.

As a self-described “non-outdoorsy person”, Johnston felt a little out of sorts with the prospect of being surrounded by nothing but nature for four months. However, his recent experience taking classes with the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism inspired him to take a chance on the opportunity. Months later, he emerged with seasoned reporting skills, advice and even a little taste of “roughing it” in the great outdoors of Northern Michigan.


As Johnston stepped into the role of environmental news intern, he discovered how a small staff of 5 reporters covered local and state news to keep the local community and surrounding areas well-informed. Johnston didn’t spend his summer fetching coffee— he was out in the field gathering story ideas, audio and writing scripts for himself and his colleagues.

“I was an intern, but I was pitching my own stories,” Johnston said. “No one ever said ‘Oh no, you shouldn’t do that’, which is probably something you should say more often to a 22-year-old reporter.”

According to Johnston, the station, located 25 minutes outside Traverse City in a small town called Interlochen, is the perfect location to learn hands-on environmental reporting.

“You’re in the middle of the woods, in this beautiful part of our state, which also happens to be a very fragile part of our state,” Johnston said. “There’s a story wherever you look.”

Johnston heard about the opportunity through the Knight Center, and with the mentorship he received from Eric Freedman, director, and David Poulson, senior associate director, he fine-tuned his work samples and got the courage to apply.

“I had a class with [Freedman] in the fall and [Poulson] in the spring,” said Johnston. “Being around them and getting positive feedback on my stories definitely pushed me towards going for the internship.”

Interlochen Radio has a close relationship with Michigan Radio and National Public Radio (NPR), a connection Johnston utilized to inquire about having his work aired on Michigan Radio’s Environment Report. After reaching out to the host Rebecca Williams and working on a story for several weeks, his story about carp missing from Grand Traverse Bay aired on the show.

“It was a huge deal for me because I have listened to the show my whole life,” Johnston said.

Staying Involved 
On campus, Johnston has been involved in MSU Telecasters, is a current contributor for Impact 89FM and works for Poulson on the Knight Center’s podcast, The Food Fix, where he hosts and produces content about food scarcity and innovative techniques to solve world hunger.

As a journalism student who was well-trained in writing basics for print news, Johnston went through an adjustment period to get his work oriented for broadcast. He learned to alter his focus from the deadline of the story to the quality of the content and developed an engaging, descriptive style. He also learned that planning out what kind of equipment a story requires is an essential component of broadcast work.

“The biggest adjustment is learning how to write like that, using narrative tools and AP style,” Johnston said. “The trick to that is to listen to a lot of radio stories and podcasts, so you get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.”

Johnston advises that students interested in radio look for opportunities outside of their comfort zones. He believes that getting your foot in the door at a station makes all of the difference, whether it is a volunteer or paid position. He also recommends getting used to industry-standard software and equipment, as well as the workspace and expectatopms.

This story first appeared on MSU’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences’ website.

An elusive eclipse

By Kate Habrel

Watching the eclipse in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Image: Jim Detjen

Watching the eclipse in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Image: Jim Detjen

Even weeks after August’s summer eclipse, people are still talking about it.

I was in Sussex, Wisconsin, with my family when it happened. I’d spent the month leading up to it reading stories of how spectacular it would be, even for those not in the path of totality.

Many looked forward to the eclipse in a similar manner.

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Knight Center alum nabs byline in Audubon

Andy McGlashen

Andy McGlashen

Knight Center alum Andy McGlashen has a story in Audubon about how even a little bit of oil can make it hard for birds to fly.

McGlashen recently started an editorial fellowship with the birding publication in New York City. He is the former communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council.

His freelance reporting has appeared in Scientific American, Midwest Energy News, Bridge Magazine, The Daily Climate, Environmental Health News  and other publications.

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EJ alum shoots high

Madison Hall

Madison Hall

Madison Hall, an alum of the Knight Center’s Environmental Journalism master’s program, is now ranked 11th nationally by USA Shooting for Women’s Air Pistol..

Hall competed in the USA Shooting Winter Air Gun match at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Hall, now a doctoral candidate in Fisheries & Wildlife, belongs to the MSU Shooting Sports Club.

In an interview with, Hall said, “While my academic goal is to complete my Ph.D. in the coming year, my competitive shooting goals remain fixed on regional, national and international air pistol shooting events, and I hope to be a role model to younger students, scientists and athletes who are trying to find their way with intelligence, compassion, strength and dignity.”

Hall’s plans include combining graduate studies and a competitive career, including a desire to compete in the Olympics.