National environmental journalists coming to Flint, public invited

By Robert Thomas and Jan Worth-Nelson

A national association of environmental journalists is considering holding its annual conference in Flint, a representative of the group told the Flint Water Recovery Group partners at their regular meeting under the dome at City Hall last week.

Board members of the Society of Environmental Journalists are scheduled to meet in Flint over the July 22-24 weekend to discuss a proposal for holding their national conference in the city  and to conduct a “listening session” sponsored by the University of Michigan  – Flint for Flint residents to gather feedback on a proposed long-term journalism project related to the water crisis.

SEJEmilia Askari, representing the board of the SEJ,  confirmed for East Village Magazine that a public meeting, “Learning from Flint:  Telling the Stories that Need to be Told” has been scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 22, in the Happenings Room of UM – Flint’s Harding Mott University Center. The event begins at 5 p.m. with an informal reception.   Speakers starting at 5:30 will include SEJ president Jeff Burnside, ACLU investigative reporter Curt Guyette, and UM-Flint Chancellor Susan Borrego.  RSVPs are requested by calling 810-762-3170 or by emailing

Askari began her presentation to the group of about 70 of community partners  by underscoring the role and importance of environmental journalism, particularly in light of crises like Flint’s.

“In response to what has happened here in Flint, we are trying, collectively as a profession,” said Askari, “to respond in a supportive way to the people of Flint in a collaborative and partnership kind of way.”

She announced that the UM-Flint made a proposal to the SEJ board that the organization should hold its annual conference in Flint in 2018. “The event would draw from five hundred to a thousand, mostly journalists, to Flint to make sure that what happened here is not forgotten,” Askari said.

Askari is a journalist, educator and UM researcher. Twenty-six years ago while a Detroit Free Press reporter, she helped found the SEJ, headquartered in Pennsylvania, which is now composed of more than 1400 members who cover environmental issues for the traditional news media.

In addition, the Society’s board is considering developing a collaborative, innovative, long-term journalism project with Flint residents where journalists would work in tandem with residents to help elevate their stories to regular exposure by relating their stories of the water crisis over their lifetimes.

According to Wikipedia, SEJ was started by reporters, editors, and producers working for The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, Turner Broadcasting, Minnesota Public Radio, and National Geographic.

Today, according to its website, SEJ’s members are working in every type of news media in the United States, Canada, Mexico and 27 other countries.

EVM staff writer Robert Thomas can be reached at  Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at


Author: East Village Magazine

A Non-profit, Community News Magazine Since 1976

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