|Ward at "Covering Coal," an Institute|
for Rural Journalism workshop in 2005
"It's always critical not to take the government's word for anything," Ward says, quoting muckraker I.F. Stone: "All governments lie." In covering the spill that fouled the water of 300,000 people, "It was especially important to have outside sources and independent experts," he says, including fellow SEJ members who knew experts he didn't.
Asked how he "cuts through emotion and rhetoric" on his Coal Tattoo blog, Ward says he's not sure he does, "and I would say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with people being emotional about issues that affect both their health and safety and their ability to provide for their families. Journalists or government officials or industry lobbyists who pretend emotion has no place in these discussions are sending us down the wrong path in covering environmental stories."
Finally, asked for advice yo young journalists who want to cover environmental news, Ward warmed out hearts by saying, "Find a small, community-based and locally owned newspaper in your home state and work there. [He did that.] Avoid Washington and New York. Smaller communities need good journalism, and the stories you find will be much richer – so will your life. Think especially about reporting in and on the place you came from – a sense of place is all too rare in journalism these days. And try to stick around a while, so you can include a sense of history and context in your reporting." (Read more)