Kate Sheppard ’06, environmental reporter for independent news organization Mother Jones, is visiting the Ithaca College campus to give a lecture on the media and its depictions of environmental issues. Sheppard will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Park Auditorium.
Staff Writer Jeremy Li spoke to Sheppard about her work as an environmental reporter, independent media and Mother Jones, the recipient of this year’s Izzy Award.
Jeremy Li: How did you find your niche as an environmental reporter?
Kate Sheppard: I’ve always been somewhat interested in environment, but it wasn’t my focus. I did environmental reporting at Grist Magazine. Once you start doing it, you keep doing it. Eventually, you know what you are talking about. So after awhile it became my beat. I love the beat. I was learning something new all the time. I like challenging myself to learn new things.
JL: How is independent media different from mainstream media, and why do you want to work for independent media?
KS: For me, the difference is I can write a story because I think it’s an important story, and I think people need to know. I think there is a trend overall in the U.S. media consumption that people are going more towards ideological sources. I think in a lot of ways that’s pretty dangerous. You are only seeing FOX News, and you get a very tunnel-vision perspective on things. All of our stories are grounded on actual reporting. It’s not just an opinion piece. It’s obviously important to us that people click on our story and buy our magazine, but I can still tell stories that I think are important. That’s my reason for going into nonprofit publication. I think that’s where you can go and get real storytelling and investigative reporting. In general, I like to be honest where I am coming from. I don’t want to pretend I have no thoughts about the story. My perspective guides what I write, but it’s based in solid reporting.
JL: Why do you think Mother Jones won this year’s Izzy Award?
KS: I think we’ve been around for a while. We are adding people and really putting emphasis on reporters, having people on the ground doing good reporting. One of the reasons we’ve got [the Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remark] story is because people have been reading our reporting on other stories. They know that we’ve put in hard work to dig up good stories, doing the investigation to find the story behind the story. We got that video because people have seen us do that before. We had a reputation that helped us break that story. That’s why I like Mother Jones, because it is investigative and it is long-form journalism.
JL: What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered as a reporter?
KS: Finding a job in the media is tough. It’s good advice not to think that going into journalism is easier. You have to expect to work really hard through the ups and downs. But if you really want to do it, you can make it work. I think people get really depressed in the future of journalism. I am excited about the future of media. I think people need more information now than they ever have before. There’s definitely a need for good content and good stories. I think that hasn’t changed.